Tactics and Personnel
Following on from the intense clash with Gladbach on Thursday, Markus Weinzierl rang in the changes, making four alterations from the team that started the Europa League second leg. Matija Nastasic was absent due to illness, with Holger Badstuber taking his place. Elsewhere in the side, Johannes Geis, Daniel Caligiuri and Nabil Bentaleb moved to the bench, replaced by Benjamin Stambouli, Alessandro Schöpf and Max Meyer. The team was set up in a 4-2-3-1 system.
Fährmann keeps the scores level
S04 had control of the early stages of the match, holding 70% of the possession in the first quarter of an hour but creating few goalscoring opportunities. The home side capitalised on Schalke's lack of cutting edge in the final third somewhat, growing into the game well and beginning to dominate proceedings. Mainz came close to opening the scoring on a few occasions, the best chances falling to Jhon Cordoba from close range and Danny Latza from distance, but both were denied by some excellent goalkeeping by Ralf Fährmann. Schalke were lacking in midfield and found themselves too easy to contain, ending up fairly thankful that the half time whistle arrived when it did.
Perfect start to the second half
Schake came out for the second period with greater intensity from the very start. It paid off quickly, when Sead Kolasinac surged down the left wing exchanges a one-two with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and another with Guido Burgstaller, the latter of which sent him through one-on-one against Jonas Lössl. The Bosnian sent the ball across the goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net to complete a brilliant overall move and give S04 the lead. Mainz reacted by turning up the pressure, yet still through the rest of the half the better opportunities went the way of the Royal Blues. While threatening and dangerous on the counter, though, they lacked precision in front of goal, with Nabil Bentaleb missing the best of the chances. Mainz, for their side, were unable to create clear opportunities in the second period.
Conclusions and Outlook
Despite the difficulties in the first half, the quality of chance Schalke managed to forge in the second made it a deserved win. After the break they looked far more solid defensively and played with greater directness on the break, creating opportunities even after taking the lead but not giving themselves the means to put the game out of sight. The win leaves S04 with 33 points from the Bundesliga season so far as the international break approaches.
After six consecutive weeks of playing both midweek and on the weekend, there is a small break from Schalke action over the next few weeks. A number of S04 players have been called up by their nations, and will travel to join up with them tomorrow. Those who have not received the call will remain in Gelsenkirchen in preparation for the next round of tests. The first game back from the break will be the Ruhr Derby against Borussia Dortmund, which will take place on Saturday 1st April at 15:30 CET at the VELTINS-Arena.