Two expected relegation candidates in the Bundesliga go head to head at the Opel Arena on Sunday looking to build on impressive starts to the campaign.
Mainz 05 have continued on from their miraculous finish to the 2020-21 season and find themselves in and around the European places, whilst FC Koln sit comfortably in midtable following their near-relegation last campaign.
After achieving the greatest escape that the Bundesliga has ever seen last season, Mainz boss Bo Svensson has picked up from where his side left off and utilised the momentum to lead the Carnival side to unknown territory in the table.
Back-to-back league victories preceded a 1-1 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach prior to the international break, to leave Die Nullfunfer sitting in seventh heading into the return to domestic football at the weekend.
That draw leaves Mainz just one point off RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen in fifth and sixth, and just two points off Wolfsburg in a Champions League spot, with supporters dreaming of an unexpected European adventure following years of relegation battles.
Back in January it had appeared Mainz were destined for the drop to the 2.Bundesliga, but since Svensson’s arrival, the turnaround has been nothing short of incredible.
Fast forward to this campaign, and the wheels appeared to have fallen off from their strong start to the campaign, with three straight defeats suffered in late September to early October, although these did arrive at the hands of European sides Leverkusen, Union Berlin and Borussia Dortmund.
However, Mainz quickly returned to winning ways with a 4-1 hammering of Augsburg, followed by a 2-1 success at Arminia Bielefeld and the draw with Gladbach immediately prior to the two-week break.
As a sign of where they have risen to, Svensson and his side will have been disappointed that they were restricted to just a point against the Foals, with their second-half hammering of their opponents perhaps deserving of all three points once Silvan Widmer had equalised.
Meanwhile, after only avoiding relegation to the second tier via a playoff victory over Holstein Kiel at the end of the 2020-21 season, Koln have impressed at the beginning of the new Bundesliga campaign themselves.
After 11 matchdays, Steffen Baumgart’s side occupy a healthy position of 11th heading into their trip to Mainz on Sunday, which leaves them just three points behind their opponents.
Baumgart has been a revelation at the Billy Goats since his arrival from SC Paderborn in the summer, despite suffering some setbacks in recent weeks.
Just one win in their last eight Bundesliga outings has taken a little shine off their bright start, but a mid-table spot at this stage of the campaign will have supporters hopeful of a more successful season following the struggles of the previous four.
Thirty-three-year-old striker Anthony Modeste has been the player who has benefitted the most from Baumgart’s guidance, with the Frenchman netting a sensational 10 goals in 13 competitive appearances already.
It was his second brace in three games that earned Koln a 2-2 draw with Union Berlin last time out, with one of the goals being a late equaliser to earn a deserved point ahead of the international break.
Mainz 05 Bundesliga form:
Mainz 05 form (all competitions):
FC Koln Bundesliga form:
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We say: Mainz 05 1-1 FC Koln
These sides appear evenly matched ahead of their encounter on Sunday, and because of this, we are predicting a tight affair finishing in a score draw.
Mainz could easily nick it though considering they are on the better run of form, but the international break will have benefitted Koln and we can see them coming away with a point here.