Marco Rose has made a positive initial impact at the Red Bull Arena, and that should lead to a win for the favorites this weekend.
Back RB Leipzig to beat Mainz on Saturday (+120)
In some ways, RB Leipzig’s decision to sack Domenico Tedesco last month was a surprise.
The Italian-German manager had only been in charge for nine months, and he had achieved plenty in that time. Inheriting a team low on confidence and near the bottom of the Bundesliga table last December, Tedesco led Leipzig to a top-four finish and Champions League qualification, while also winning the DFB-Pokal and reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League.
True, the club’s failure to win that latter competition was a source of frustration at Red Bull Arena, but there was no doubt that Tedesco had done a fantastic job after replacing Jesse Marsch at the helm.
Yet that was soon forgotten as Leipzig suffered a disappointing start to the current campaign and the powers that be decided to terminate Tedesco’s contract after Leipzig won only one of their first five league matches in 2022/23.
Dig a little deeper, though, and it became clear that there was tension between Tedesco and his superiors even when things were going well the last term.
In that light, his exit and the appointment of Marco Rose looked like much less of a shock. Rose, meanwhile, has got off to a positive start in his new job, guiding Leipzig to convincing victories over Borussia Dortmund (3-0) and Bochum (4-0), albeit either side of a disappointing 3-0 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach.
Rose has made a point of trying to return Leipzig to their roots, promoting intensity, dynamism, heavy pressing, and quick breaks forward. That strategy has worked so far, but it should be noted that Julian Nagelsmann and Tedesco both enjoyed success by making the team a little more patient in possession. It will be interesting to see what Rose’s tactical plans are in the medium term.
Mainz have been Bundesliga mainstays for over a decade now, but five consecutive bottom-half finishes led some to tip them for relegation last term. Instead, Mainz had their best campaign since the Roger Schmidt side of 2015/16.
They finished eighth under the astute management of Bo Svensson, who had pulled them out of the bottom two in the second half of 2020/21.
The demotion was not a concern for Mainz at any point last season; the lowest position they occupied in the table was 11th, and that was in mid-October. The Europa Conference League ultimately proved to be out of reach, but Svensson and his players were nevertheless able to reflect on a campaign in which Mainz made considerable progress.
Had they been a little better away from home, European soccer might well have been within reach.
Mainz were excellent in front of their own fans, with only Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and Leipzig collecting more points at home. But they were dismal on their travels, finishing with the second-worst away record in the division.
Curiously, the tables have turned at the start of 2022/23.
It must be stressed that it is still early days this term, but all three of Mainz’s wins to date have come at opposition grounds, while they have picked up just two points at home.
The next few weeks will be crucial for all Bundesliga clubs, but Leipzig are one of the sides who would particularly benefit from a strong run. With the 2022 World Cup scheduled for November and December, German sides will contest seven matches before the domestic action pauses in the middle of next month. The Bundesliga will then take its customary winter break and only return on January 20.
The month-long break between the World Cup final and the resumption of Germany’s top flight will give Rose time to conduct a mini pre-season.
But before then, he will want to get his team as close to the top four as possible – or preferably in it. Leipzig are only four points behind Borussia Dortmund, Rose’s former club, and their new manager may privately be striving to overtake BVB before the World Cup.
Mainz have struggled in attack so far this term, while only one of their eight goals has come at home.
Leipzig have kept a clean sheet in two of their first three league matches under Rose, who will know that defensive solidity will be key to any top-four push. Leipzig are also looking much more dangerous in attack, and we fancy them to prove too strong for Mainz this weekend. Go for an away win in this one.
|Teams||Mainz vs RB Leipzig|
|Location||MEWA Arena, Mainz, Germany|
|Time||Saturday, 8 October 2022, 9.30 AM EST|
|How to watch||ESPN+|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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