Schwarz: “Our actions have to back up our words on Sunday”
The Bundesliga home stretch kicks off this weekend when Mainz welcome Borussia Mönchengladbach to the OPEL ARENA on Easter Sunday - Bungert in for Diallo? - Goalkeeper not yet decided
The final international break of this season is behind us. Now it’s crunch time. Mainz 05 round off matchday 28 by welcoming Gladbach to the OPEL ARENA on Easter Sunday. It’s the first of seven crucial games in the fight to stay up and the first game since the 3-0 derby defeat at the hands of Frankfurt, a result which prompted the powers that be within the club to approach things differently with the hope of laying the foundations for Sandro Schwarz’s side to secure another season of Bundesliga football. “After all the justified criticism we’ve received, we have to just keep looking forward,” said the Zerofivers’ coach in the press conference three days before the game.
“The international break gave us a well needed break. We had the chance to breathe. Now we have seven games, as well as a possible pair of relegation games, ahead of us. We have to get better results and we have to let our play do the talking on the pitch,” said Schwarz, who alongside the board has come under a lot of fire from disappointed club members recently. A significant event was held in the OPEL ARENA with 600 fans to engage in direct dialogue about their opinions on the club as a result. “I think it’s fully justified that the fans were questioning our commitment and fight after a performance like the one against Frankfurt,” emphasised Schwarz. “They don’t expect us to completely dominate our opponents, but they do expect us to play at full intensity with a bit of physicality and aggression when we go in for our challenges. It was really beneficial to hear their thoughts and engage with them. It was important to me that by the end of it all everyone was on the same page, looking forward. Now our actions have to back up our words on Sunday.”
Talks with the whole squad
A lot of dialogue has also been undertaken with the team themselves over the last 14 days, explained the 39-year-old. “It was important to make sure that we were fully ready for this crucial phase of the season. We used the international break to readjust ourselves. When we had our full squad back on Thursday morning, I held another team meeting with everyone. We’re not satisfied with the 25 points that we have at this stage, but it helps no one to get bogged down in the past. When the referee blows his whistle to start the game, everyone has to be able to see that we’ve put what we said we would into place. We have to play with the kind of intensity that gives everyone in the stadium the impression that we’re very much ready for the final stretch,” said Schwarz. “There are no more breaks from now on, just a very clear objective from week to week. Despite everything, we have the chance to climb up to 15th in the table. The first step is putting in a good performance against Gladbach on Sunday. That doesn’t meant that we make every pass, but we have to give off the impression that we are ready to fight for survival at all costs.”
There’s nothing more to say, underlines Rouven Schröder. “We will have to wait and see how we put all this talk into practice.” The Zerofivers’ sporting director is optimistic that the team will do all that is needed nonetheless. “We’re confident, because we see the team every day in training and we talk with each other every day to analyse things, reflect on things and gather feedback,” said Schröder. Mainz have to play to the strengths that they’ve already displayed so far this season - above all when playing at home. “The boys have proved this season that they have the necessary mental capability to deal with adversity like this,” the coach said. “What we’re lacking is consistency. That is the main problem.” Schwarz wants to select a team to play against a highly tipped Borussia side that “will give us the biggest possible chance to swing things in our favour. Mental nous is a big criteria in my selection process for the starting eleven. Who will be able to consistently be able to put in the kind of performances that we need over the coming weeks?”
Some things still to be decided
The one definite absence on Sunday will be Abdou Diallo, who is recovering from a broken nose. This could possibly mean that a first appearance this season for club captain Niko Bungert is on the cards. Bungert has put in good performances in training for an extended period now and has successfully worked his way through injury troubles.
“Niko is a candidate to start on Sunday,” said the coach, who could also turn to Alexander Hack, Leon Balogun or Jean-Philippe Gbamin in his effort to replace Diallo. Florian Müller, who returned from Germany Under-21 duty earlier than expected due to a thumb injury, has taken part in training and is available. Schwarz wants to take his time in the selection process to decide whether Müller, René Adler or Robin Zentner will play in goal.