Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 13/10
FSV Mainz 05 and Borussia Dortmund are set to do battle at the Mewa Arena in Mainz on Wednesday afternoon in the 17th round of the Bundesliga campaign, in what is surely an important match for both sides as they strive to avoid some unwanted scenarios at the end of the season. The Jurgen Klopp derby, as the fans of the charismatic Liverpool boss like to call this fixture, as both clubs enjoyed rather successful spells under his command in the past.
Mainz go into the final match of the first half of the Bundesliga campaign in 13th place, with 20 points to their name. As things stand at the time of writing, that’s five points more than VfB Stuttgart in 16th, the spot that leads to the relegation play-offs, six more than Hertha Berlin in 17th, and whole 11 points more than Schalke 04, whose prospects for survival don’t look too promising. Looking above, Mainz are staring at the backs of the likes of FC Koln, Borussia Monchengladbach, Bayer Leverkusen, Hoffenheim and Werder Bremen, with all these teams squeezed within a three-point gap.
Like most Bundesliga clubs, Mainz have played only one competitive match since the World Cup – a 1-1 draw away to Stuttgart a couple of days ago. Therefore, their last-six run includes five matches from before the tournament in Qatar: a 5-0 thrashing of Koln at home, a 6-2 thrashing suffered at the hands of Bayern in Munich, a 0-3 home defeat to Wolfsburg, a 1-0 defeat away to Schalke, and a 1-1 draw at home against Eintracht Frankfurt on November 13th.
This match will obviously represent an attempt to nail their first league victory since October for Bo Svensson and his men. As for the DFB-Pokal, Mainz have reached the round of 16 and that will be their next task after this match – at home against Bayern Munich.
Winger Delano Burgzorg (ankle), as well as strikers Jonathan Burgkarth (knee) and Marlon Mustapha (thigh), are unavailable for selection, as is midfielder Dominik Kohr, suspended for picking up his fifth booking of the season in the previous match.
The good news for Svensson is that goalkeeper Robin Zentner should recover from a back problem in time to stand between the posts in this match, and that defender Stefan Bell is back after serving a one-match ban.
With Zentner in goal, Bell should team up with Alexander Hack and Anthony Caci in the back line of three. Captain Silvan Widmer will take his place on the right flank, with Aaron Martin Caricol on the left, and the pair of Anton Stach and Leandro Barreiro in the middle of the park. Lee Jae-sung should play further up, supporting the regular striker duo of Karim Onisiwo and Marcus Ingwartsen.
Things haven’t gone too well for Dortmund this season, but nothing is lost at this point, of course, even if they are seventh in the Bundesliga table at the moment. With 28 points to their name, they’re only seven behind Bayern at the top and four behind RB Leipzig in second place, both of whom have already played their 17th match of the campaign. Eintracht Frankfurt, Union Berlin and SC Freiburg are on 30, and Wolfsburg on 29 as they lead 3-0 at home against Hertha in the second half, at the time of writing.
In the only competitive match since the World Cup, Dortmund bagged a 4-3 victory over Augsburg at home, just three days before this match is set to take place. Before that, they beat Eintracht in Frankfurt by 1-2, drew 1-1 away to Copenhagen in the Champions League, beat VfL Bochum 3-0 at home, lost 2-0 away to Wolfsburg, and lost 4-0 away to Borussia Monchengladbach. In the German Cup, Dortmund have also booked a place in the round of 16, where they will face Bochum. In the Champions League, a double feature against Chelsea awaits.
One of the areas where Edin Terzic’s team simply cannot reach the heights of last season is the number of goals scored. The 1.8 per 90 minutes is a significantly lower average than the 2.5 of 2021/22, and the reason for that is not too difficult to guess. They still have excellent strikers in their ranks, but there’s simply no replacing Erling Haaland who left to join Manchester City last summer and is currently terrorizing defences across the Premier League.
Of course, Dortmund have another potential superstar on their hands these days, with the race for the services of 19-year-old midfielder Jude Bellingham set to go to the wire at the end of the season and the prospective buyer likely to fork out well over €100 million.
However, Bellingham won’t be able to display his talents at the Mewa Arena on Wednesday. Just like Mainz’s Dominik Kohr, he’s suspended with five yellow cards to his name this season.
Defender Thomas Meunier (muscle) and Mateu Moray, and midfielder Abdoulaye Kamara (both knee) are ruled out at the moment. Captain Marco Reus isn’t yet, but he could miss out through illness, while Emre Can, who can play both at the back and in midfield, carries a minor knock which makes him a doubt as well.
Presuming Reus and Can aren’t in contention, Terzic’s team should look something like this:
Gregor Kobel in goal. Mats Hummels and Nico Schlotterbeck in the heart of defence, flanked by Marius Wolf and Rafael Guerreiro. Mahmoud Dahoud should come into the midfield instead of Bellingham, joined by Salih Ozcan. Further up, the trio of Karim Adeyemi, Julian Brandt and Giovanni Reyna is expected to provide support for young Youssoufa Moukoko.
At the moment, Dortmund’s need for points seems the greater, and they undoubtedly have more quality in their ranks. The support from the stands of the Mewa Arena probably won’t be enough for Mainz to avoid defeat.
Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 13/10