THE BUNDESLIGA is back and Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) is on-hand to preview Sunday's televised showdown between Koln and Mainz.
Koln v Mainz | Sunday 17th May 2020, 14:30 | BT Sport
The Bundesliga return continues on Sunday as Koln host Mainz, looking to continue their impressive home form before the season went into shutdown. Sat 10th in the league, Markus Gilsdol’s side had won five of their previous six homes games and will be confident of picking up where they left off against a Mainz side under threat from relegation.
Despite only one defeat in their last five competitive outings, Mainz are sat four points clear of the relegation play-off heading into these fixtures. A point would represent a good result for, and after a 3-1 reverse win earlier in the season, it is certainly a result Achim Beierlorzer’s side would take, and give them a strong platform to build on for the remaining fixtures.
Absentees to hit Mainz
However, Mainz will have to cope with two key absentees for this game, with striker Jean-Philippe Mateta missing through suspension, whilst goalkeeper Robin Zentner has been ruled out with a knee injury.
Zentner has been one of Mainz’s key players so far this season despite the leaky backline, so the pressure will be on his replacement to step up against a side in impressive attacking form, and this is something to keep a close eye on when up against a strong Koln attack.
Mateta’s absence should see Adam Szalai start, and the target man will be expected to hold up the play and bring Karim Onisiwo and top goal scorer Robin Quaison into play.
However, if Koln can shut off this supply line, something that will fall to on-loan centre back Toni Leistner, who will be known from his spell at QPR, as well as holding midfielders Jonas Hector and Ellyes Skhiri, Szalai could become isolated for long periods, particularly with the target man not being as strong a presser of the play as Mateta.
Koln too much to handle
In shutting off this supply line, Koln should dominate the ball, and the one to watch for the hosts will be January signing Mark Uth, who has impressed since joining on-loan from Schalke.
Capped by Germany in 2018 during the Nations League, Uth has netted four goals since January, as well as four assists, and registering an average 4.1 shots per-game from attacking midfield – Mainz will have to find a way to keep him quiet.
The underlying data behind Mainz defence is particularly worrying, and with an Expected Goals Against (xGa) tally of 46.58, working out to 1.86 per-game, Koln will be confident of creating plenty of chances, especially if the 3-4-3 Mainz often play leaves space between the lines for Uth to exploit.
Furthermore, Mainz are conceding an average of 15.2 shots across the season, so the quantity, as well as quality of chances, Koln should see, would be no surprise.
The ‘Ghost Game’ element to this is something to be wary of, potentially impacting on the intensity within the game, whilst when considering the player markets on this clash, the five substitute rule must be factored in.
However, with a full fixture list on Saturday to educate further, heading into this clash, trends may have started to appear, and offer a clearer idea of how the human elements will effect this clash.
The betting angles
Moving onto the betting markets, it is hard to look past a Koln win, best priced at 19/20 (Sportingbet). Despite the fact Mainz will be battling hard against the drop, the Billy Goats' home form and improvements since January are hard to overlook, particularly with an attack that appears to be growing in confidence and linking up well.
Mainz’s leaky defence and underlying data to back it up is worrying, coupled with Mateta and Zentner’s absences, adding to the uphill task.
The stand out from the player markets falls to Jhon Cordoba, who has been in fine form since Uth’s arrival in January. The Colombian has netted six in seven games since then, and the striker should lead the line on Sunday against the leaky Mainz defence.
Cordoba’s shot output has improved dramatically in this run of games, and despite the break, he should be full of confidence to continue his fine form for Gisdol’s side. Priced at 15/2 (Coral), Cordoba to score and Koln to win is a particularly appealing price, and takes my fancy for this encounter, alongside an outright Koln win.
Koln v Mainz – Koln to win (19/20 Sportingbet)
Koln v Mainz – Jhon Cordoba to score and Koln to win (15/2 Coral)