A familiar face returns: Ahead of Friday night’s clash with Hertha BSC (20:30 CEST) and the reunion with former Mainz coach Sandro Schwarz, now overseeing the Berlin club, Bo Svensson was full of praise for his counterpart and former teammate, whom he knows well from their time together at FSV’s youth academy. “He’s a special person and tomorrow he comes back to where it all began for him. He was a coach in the academy and with the first team, as well as a player for a good few years: We don’t have a lot of guys like him here in Mainz. He’s earned the right to be appreciated from everyone, even if he’s the opposition’s coach this week. I hope the fans will welcome him back with open arms,” said the Zerofivers’ head coach in his press conference ahead of the first fixture in matchweek 7 of the Bundesliga.
We don’t have a lot of guys like Sandro here in Mainz.
There will be a lot of cause for excitement at the MEWA ARENA on Friday night, as more than just Schwarz is returning to his former club. Current Hertha assistant and former Mainz defender Tamás Bódog is coming back to his old stomping ground, as is Jean-Paul Boëtius, who joined Hertha in the summer on a free transfer after his contract with the Zerofivers came to an end. Despite all that, though, there is a lot at stake: Mainz are looking to secure their first win at home this season. “We lost our last game and now we’re at home: that’s our motivation. I’ve seen a lot of excitement for tomorrow’s game in training this week,” commented Svensson, adding that the reunion on the touchline should only be a small part of the story of the match: “Sandro and I have a good relationship and get on well with each other. We’ll have to wait and see if that lasts the full 90 minutes,” the coach joked, because: “We’re both not known for being the calmest out there, let’s say. That said, we’ll leave it all on the pitch and have a chat after the game whatever happens.”
Expecting high intensity from the word go
In Svensson’s view, the relationship between him and Schwarz will not have too big of an impact on how the game will be played. He adds that given how detailed and precise the analysis of teams is in the Bundesliga nowadays, it’s not possible to surprise opponents with different setups, but he expects a “good game and a lot of intensity”.
One thing that is already clear is that FSV will be taking on this challenge with several enforced changes to the team. Alexander Hack is out for two games following his sending off against Hoffenheim, whilst Jonny Burkardt is also unable to play due to a foot injury, also sustained in Sinsheim last weekend. There is some good news for Svensson and his coaching staff, as they look to have both Marcus Ingvartsen and Anton Stach back amongst the squad – the pair returned to training this week and should at least be options for the bench on Friday. As ever, Svensson played his cards close to his chest in the presser, shying away from revealing how the absences and returnees would affect his team. All he let slip was this: “We need to find a way around losing Hacki. With a new defensive setup you need to tinker with a lot of things, including the tempo,” he said.
Hertha make gains
The concerns of the Zerofivers’ head coach were more fixed on the upturn in performances from Friday’s guests, who have improved their style of play massively from last season. “It’s a completely different side to the one we faced in May. You can already see that in their attack, where they have players they didn’t have before, like Dodi Lukebakio, Wilfried Kanga and Chidera Ejuke. They have a lot of pace and individual quality which can make a big difference in one-on-one situations. That wasn’t the case last year. You can see the massive difference they have made with Sandro as a coach and the squad they have created, and at the same time a very good structure to everything they do,” said Svensson.
It’s a completely different side to the one we faced in May.
Also a part of the Blue-Whites’ side is Jean-Paul Boëtius, who looks set to start given fellow former Zerofiver Suat Serdar is likely to miss out. “You can’t be anything but delighted for Djanga,” said Svensson. “He was a key player for us in my first 18 months here, both on the pitch and in the dressing room. We’re delighted to be seeing him again and we know what kind of quality he has. In the same way, though, he knows what to expect here.”
No room for a lack of aggression
Alongside the tough task of dealing with the opposition’s strengths consistently, success for FSV in the game will only come if they perform at their best for the full 90 minutes. Most recently, the team started well in Hoffenheim but let their heads drop following Jonny Burkardt’s injury – it was a clear turning point in the game, “because we became more passive,” commented Svensson. The coach added that one of the key elements to his style of play at Mainz is the industriousness and activity that the team shows week on week. Being passive and not having the right attitude is forbidden.