Champions League-chasing RB Leipzig will face a tricky test when they host in-form FSV Mainz in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
RB Leipzig will be looking to get back on track, while high-flying Mainz 05 will aim to stretch their six-match unbeaten run when these two lock horns in the Bundesliga at the Red Bull Arena on Saturday.
RB Leipzig desperately required an international break to reorganise and shake off the hangover from two devastating losses last month. Marco Rose’s side suffered a disastrous 7-0 defeat at the hands of English champions Manchester City in the return leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 encounter at Etihad Stadium in mid-March.
They then fell 1-0 away at relegation-battlers Bochum four days later, putting their domestic title aspirations in jeopardy as well. Die Roten Bullen now find themselves sitting fifth in the Bundesliga table, one point adrift of the Champions League places. And if they want to compete in the top-tier continental competition again next season, they will have to turn their fortunes around sooner rather than later.
Mainz will travel to Leipzig in high spirits after a run of four wins and two draws in the last six league games. That said, Bo Svensson’s side were a tad fortunate to escape a home loss to Freiburg last weekend, as Karim Onisiwo equalised in the sixth minute of stoppage time.
The six-game unbeaten run heading into the international break kept them within touching distance of the top six as they sit just four points outside the European spots.
Leipzig and Mainz played out a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture at MEWA Arena on October 8. Christopher Nkunku and Marcus Ingvartsen got on the scoresheet that day. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
It's good to be back! 💪 pic.twitter.com/YMiZtQvuwI
— RB Leipzig English (@RBLeipzig_EN) March 30, 2023
Top scorer Christopher Nkunku is sidelined with a long-term thigh injury, while Xaver Schlager had surgery on an ankle injury. Forward Yussuf Poulsen is also doubtful with a calf injury. Centre-back Mohamed Simakan is doubtful with a muscle injury. Abdou Diallo is nearing a return from a knee issue, while No. 1 goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi is on his way back from an ACL injury.
Janis Blaswich is expected to continue between the sticks in Gulacsi’s absence, with Leipzig lining up in a classic Red Bull 4-2-2-2 formation in front of him, with Benjamin Henrichs, Willi Orban, Josko Gvardiol, and David Raum forming the back-four.
Amadou Haidara and Konrad Laimer will once again take charge as the double pivots. The duo will look to keep things tight, and their presence will give the attackers the freedom and impetus to express themselves in the final third.
Leipzig have an excellent attacking combination, so Dominik Szoboszlai and Dani Olmo will often take up central attacking midfield positions, allowing the full-backs to overlap. Finally, Nkunku’s continued absence means Andre Silva and Timo Werner will be the strike partnership for Leipzig.
Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Blaswich; Henrichs, Orban, Gvardiol, Raum; Laimer, Haidara; Szoboszlai, Olmo; Silva, Werner
FSV Mainz 05
Karim Onisiwo, who scored his 31st Bundesliga goal for Mainz in the 1-1 draw against SC Freiburg last time out and is now just one goal shy of surpassing Robin Quaison as Mainz’s record scorer in the top flight, looks increasingly doubtful to feature here due to an ongoing knee problem.
Key forward Jonathan Burkardt is still on his way back from a knee operation. Brajan Gruda has a hip problem. Mainz are likely to line up in a 3-4-2-1 formation with Robin Zentner in goal. The back three will comprise Andreas Hanche-Olsen, Stefan Bell, and Edimilson Fernandes.
— 1. FSV Mainz 05 (@1FSVMainz05) March 30, 2023
Anthony Caci and Danny da Costa are expected to start as the wing-backs, and they will look to provide defensive cover and influence the attack by providing width in the final third as well. In the middle of the park, Leandro Barreiro will partner with Aymen Barkok.
Onisiwo is a big miss for the visitors, who will likely continue with Ludovic Ajorque up front. With 15 goals and three assists in Bundesliga between them this term, Marcus Ingvartsen, and Lee Jae-sung will support Ajorque in the attack.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Zentner; Hanche-Olsen, Bell, Fernandes; Da Costa, Barreiro, Stach, Caci; Ingvartsen, Lee; Ajorque
- FSV Mainz 05 have lost only one of four games against RB Leipzig (2W, 1D) and picked up seven points under Bo Svensson—more than in the first nine Bundesliga meetings against the Saxons. (5 points, W D2 L6).
- RB Leipzig have an impeccable record at home against Mainz, having won five of the six Bundesliga clashes.
- Leipzig’s Timo Werner has a penchant for finding the back of the net against Mainz, having scored 13 goals in 14 Bundesliga games, more than against any other club.
- FSV Mainz 05 are undefeated in six Bundesliga games (W4 D2) under Bo Svensson.
- Mainz have won only one of their seven games against teams ranked in the top five ahead of this Bundesliga matchday (D3 L3).
Player to Watch
Fresh off scoring a wild Cristiano Ronaldo-esque knuckleball free-kick in Hungary’s 3-0 victory over Bulgaria during the international break, Szoboszlai will be aiming to add to his tally of 12 goal contributions for Leipzig this weekend. Meanwhile, he has appeared on the radars of a few top clubs, including Chelsea.
The Hungarian midfielder has been one of Die Roten Bullen’s most consistent players in the Bundesliga in 2022/23, having turned in another strong performance for Leipzig despite the team’s 1-0 defeat to Bochum on his last club outing. He will be chomping at the bit to continue his fine form for Leipzig in the final phase of the season as they look to achieve a top-four finish.
RB Leipzig 1-1 FSV Mainz 05
RB Leipzig may have lost ground in the Bundesliga title race and now find themselves in a scrap for the top four. But they boast the second-best home record in the league, having recorded nine wins on home soil so far. While the hosts are the slight favourites to win this game, Mainz are in excellent form and harbour European ambitions of their own.
They have been a competitive force throughout the season, and while they have proven to be a tough nut to crack down under Svensson, they remain vulnerable on their travels, currently on a poor run of just one win out of their last six. Overall, Leipzig should have just enough in their locker to grab all three points against the in-form visitors.