Thomas Tuchel is hoping Marco Reus can build on his double against Tottenham when Borussia Dortmund welcome Mainz to Signal Iduna Park in the Bundesliga on Sunday.
Reus was in impressive form as Dortmund dismantled Tottenham in the Europa League on Thursday, securing a 3-0 first-leg advantage in their last-16 tie and extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 12 matches.
The 26-year-old added to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s opener by slamming past Hugo Lloris from close range, before adding his second with a composed finish at the end of a brilliant team move.
Injuries have once again blighted Reus’ season, but Tuchel – who coached Mainz from 2009 to 2014 – believes his fitness is steadily improving and wants more of the same as Dortmund look to make it 10 Bundesliga home matches unbeaten against this weekend’s opponents.
“Nothing helps quite like goals. That’ll give him a boost. I’m absolutely delighted for Marco,” the Dortmund coach said.
“He sets himself high standards and is striving towards a level of fitness that allows him to tackle and counter-press with absolute sharpness every three days.
“We are working on this. These two goals will help him get there.”
Mainz will be no walkovers, though, having overcome league leaders Bayern Munich 2-1 at the Allianz Arena in their last away match.
However, Martin Schmidt’s team could only follow that up with a 0-0 draw at home to Darmstadt, meaning they missed out on the chance to move inside the top four – though they still occupy fifth position in the Bundesliga.
And rather than being concerned by Dortmund’s dominant display on Thursday, the Mainz coach felt it vindicated the way his team have been preparing for the fixture.
“My assistant coach Peter Perchtold was in Dortmund, I have seen it on television,” said Schmidt.
“It was a special game, but you saw what makes Dortmund strong. The game has once again confirmed our impressions.”
Tuchel has concerns over the fitness of Ilkay Gundogan (foot), while Sven Bender is struggling with a muscular injury following the Tottenham match.
Having returned to training during the week following a groin injury, Sokratis Papastathopoulos could be in line for a return to the matchday squad.
Giulio Donati’s red card in Mainz’s 0-0 draw with Darmstadt last weekend added to Schmidt’s selection problems, with Yoshinori Muto (knee) and Pierre Bengtsson (ankle) heading up a lengthy injury list.
Key Opta Stats:
– Dortmund are the only unbeaten side this year and have a league-high 20 points to their name after eight games in 2016 – a tally which has only been higher at this point of a year on one occasion (22, 2012). Mainz have the fourth-best record since the mid-season break (16 points).
– Mainz have picked up an impressive 16 points from a possible 21 in their last seven games, losing just once (3-2 vs. Hoffenheim on Matchday 22). They have already won one more point on their travels this season (17) than in the whole of 2014-15 (16).
– Dortmund are unbeaten in 16 home Bundesliga games (W14) – their last defeat at Signal Iduna Park came against Bayern in early April 2015 (1-0). This is their longest run without losing on their own turf for four years (17, October 2011-September 2012).
– Tuchel was Mainz boss for a record 170 Bundesliga games (2009-2014). The current head coach, Schmidt, has a marginally better points-per-game average (1.53) than his predecessor (1.41).
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