“We don't need to fear our opponents”, says manager Holger Stanislawski optimistically. “We just need to be better in the final third. I'm confident that we'll come away with something.” Hoffenheim travelled to Mainz on matchday 7 of last season, and Mainz won the match 4-2. It was their seventh league victory in seven straight matches that year, equalling Bayern Munich's season-opening record from 1995-96 and Kaiserslautern's in 2001-02. Despite his team's traditionally poor showing in this fixture, Stanislawski is looking forward to the game, but is certain that it will be a difficult one. “I watched their game against Schalke recently. They have a strong team and a great home crowd behind them. It should be a great occasion on Saturday.”
At Thursday's press conference, Stani couldn't give any definitive information about the team he would put out, and questions still remain about his favoured formation. Edson Braafheid (ankle), Ryan Babel (fever) and Andreas Ibertsberger (adductor) are doubtful, while Chinedu Obasi travelled half-way around the world with the Nigeria squad for games against Madagascar and Argentina, and has returned fatigued. Also missing are long-term absentees Matthias Jaissle, Tobias Weis, Vedad Ibisevic, Boris Vukcevic and Manuel Gulde.
Salihovic misses out
Sejad Salihovic must also watch the action from the sidelines. The Bosnia midfielder suffered compression to his right knee and upper tibia during Bosnia's win against Belarus on Tuesday. He had to be withdrawn after 18 minutes of the game after falling awkwardly following an aerial duel, and won't be fit to face Mainz. “Sali is definitely out. We hope he can return to training by early next week”, said Stani.
Debut for Musona? Comeback for Sigurdsson?
But there is also reason for optimism. Knowledge Musona and Gylfi Sigurdsson both returned to full training with the first team this week and will be in the squad for Saturday's game. When asked whether the two of them would be in the starting line-up, Stani replied with a shake of the head. “Of course we're happy that they're back, but they aren't yet ready to come straight into the first-team.”
Mainz 05 have won all four matches against 1899 Hoffenheim, with three of those wins being close-run affairs (1-0, 2-1, 2-1). Mainz are yet to use the same eleven in two consecutive matches this season; manager Thomas Tuchel has made two changes on average to his team for each game. Holger Stanislawski has, on the other hand, used the same starting eleven for his side's last three games.