Newly promoted VfB Stuttgart head to FSV Mainz on Saturday, seeking their first win against the Nullfünfter on their home turf in over 15 years. Even if the Rheinhessen currently face an internal revolt over the suspension of Adam Szalai, Stuttgart coach Pellegrino Matarazzo still takes his opponent seriously.
A crucial fixture for both sides kicks off Saturday at 15:30
|Pellegrino Matarazzo.||Photo: Jeollo, Vfb-exklusiv.de, CC BY-SA 3.0|
When was the last time Stuttgart managed to beat Mainz at home? One must travel back to September 2005. Legendary Italian manager Giovanni Trappatoni bested Jürgen Klopp's Pfälzer with joker Mario Gomez. The Schwaben earned a 2-1 victory on an autumn day at the old Stadion am Bruchweg.
Matarazzo doesn't care for history or trends
In a Thursday press conference, American trainer Pellegrino Matarazzo made clear that he doesn't concern himself with the long losing streak. "I haven't been here for those fifteen years," he told reporters.
Moreover, Matarazzo showed no signs of taking his internally divided competition lightly. "[the Mainz troubles] have no effect on our gameplan. I expect a very fast and athletic opponent. Mainz are very aggressive on the counter. A tough battle awaits us and we have to act as a cohesive unit to deliver a good performance."
Wataru Endo to start in central defense?
Matarazzo conceded that both center back Konstantinos Mavropanos and central midfielder Philipp Förster would be unavailable for selection on Saturday. Both have made significant progress in recovering from their respective injuries.
The trainer left opened the possibility of shifting defensive midfielder back to center half. He openly declared himself amenable to such a move, saying, "Moving him back and putting another player in midfield is a thought."
Stuttgart nearly engineered a comeback against SC Freiburg in last weekend's encounter thanks in large part to the play of Phillip Klement in midfield. It's possible that Klement is the additional player Matarazzo may be considering.
Speculation that Sasa Kalajdzic would join Klement in a return to the starting XI was also brought up at the press conference, but the trainer declined to discuss specifics of his lineup.
Mainz sporting director appeals for solidarity in front of fans
With all the in-shop chaos taking place at Mainz, club boss Rouven Schröder appealed directly to his players to give their for the estimated 3,400 fans who will fill the Opel Arena. The Pfälzer welcome back live spectators for the first time since March.
"On Saturday we can prove ourselves a unified group; showing what we can do and for whom we play," Schröder said on Thursday, "This is our first home game before the supporters. We must and will appear united."
Head coach Achim Beierlorzer lamented the fact that his squad "had one less day of training". He nevertheless emphasized that the fans must be respected. "For the first time in a long time we will have supporters in Mainz. Enthusiastic football must be played. We wish to experience that in our home stadium with our home fans."
Beierlorzer acknowledged that his team "had made a statement" before imploring them to "go full steam ahead for the VfB fixture".