REUTERS - Coach Thomas Tuchel returns to former club Mainz 05 for the first time since their acrimonious split more than a year ago with Borussia Dortmund desperate for a win on Friday that would help them hang on to the coattails of leaders Bayern Munich.
Tuchel coached Mainz for five years, steering the Bundesliga minnows to two Europa League campaigns while also setting a club record for a best start of seven consecutive victories at the beginning of the 2010-11 season.
However, things turned sour when he left Mainz 05 in May 2014 despite the club refusing to release him from a contract that still had a season to run and Tuchel, feted as Germany’s most talented young coach, opted to spend a year away from the sport before taking over at Dortmund prior to this campaign.
“We have different ideas about respect,” Mainz 05 president Harald Strutz said this week. “His departure was borderline.”
Strutz had used stronger words at the time of Tuchel’s exit, suggesting the coach had betrayed the team.
Tuchel’s sabbatical ended when, following Dortmund’s disastrous 2014-15 season, he was brought in as Juergen Klopp’s successor and the 42-year-old saw his team race out of the blocks with five straight wins this season.
They then stuttered to a pair of consecutive draws before crashing to a 5-1 defeat at Bayern two weeks ago to drop seven points off the pace in second place.
“I do not have a bad feeling about my return to Mainz,” Tuchel told reporters without responding to Strutz’s comments.
The coach will hoping Dortmund’s positive record against their opponents continues, with his team winning seven of their last eight matches against Mainz.
Tuchel will also be keen to see Marco Reus find his shooting boots for his club after the attacking midfielder missed a string of chances while on international duty with Germany last week.
Reus has scored more goals against Mainz than any other club in the league, netting eight times against the team from western Germany.
“I know I am not yet where I want to be,” said Reus, who was sidelined for a few weeks after fracturing a toe in September. “But one goal, one successful move and everything can change.”
Should Reus still struggle for form, Tuchel can count on striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has set a league record after scoring in each of the opening eight Bundesliga matches so far.
A goal in Mainz would see the Gabon international set a Bundesliga record by becoming the first player to score in 11 consecutive games as part of a run that stretches back to last season.
Elsewhere, champions Bayern travel to struggling Werder Bremen in search of a ninth straight league win since the start of the season, while third-placed Schalke 04, a point behind Dortmund, will be looking to bounce back from their 3-0 home loss to Cologne with a victory over Hertha Berlin.
Editing by John O'Brien