Svensson's turnaround puts Mainz back in the spotlight

·2 min read

DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — Jürgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel, Bo Svensson?

Coaching Mainz in the Bundesliga inevitably means being compared to the illustrious names who started out at the German team in the past and went on to coach world-class clubs. Both Klopp and Tuchel have become Champions League winners in England — Klopp with Liverpool, Tuchel with Chelsea.

After years of struggling to survive in the Bundesliga, now Mainz is in the spotlight again with Svensson at the helm.

The Mainz job looked like a losing proposition when the former Denmark defender took over in January. The team was second from last in the league and already had three other coaches that season.

In the eight months since, Svensson has transformed Mainz. The club has won 12 of 25 league games with him in charge and drawn seven more, a record comparable to teams challenging for European places with much bigger budgets. From looking headed for relegation, Mainz ended up 12th last season, and is fifth in the standings ahead of Saturday's game against Bayer Leverkusen.

Svensson is expecting a tough test from Leverkusen.

“They play dynamic and aggressive soccer and also have exceptional players in the attack,” he said Thursday.

Svensson's arrival in January came about after Mainz brought back former sporting director Christian Heidel. He had been key to appointing the then-young and inexperienced Klopp and Tuchel more than a decade earlier as the club broke into the top division for the first time.

Svensson played under both Klopp and Tuchel during seven years as a player for Mainz and admits “stealing” training exercises from Tuchel.

“Both of them are special people with a special charisma,” he told the RND media group in May.

“It's obviously had a big influence how (Tuchel) leads a team as the coach and how he sorted out various situations. I've stolen training exercises from him here and there. Or I've understood how you build a week of training intensity and when you say something to the team.”

At the top of the standings, Bayern Munich already looks on course for a 10th consecutive Bundesliga title after routing Bochum 7-0 last time out to move into first place with a plus-16 goal difference. Another big win is possible Friday at another promoted team, Greuther Fürth.

Wolfsburg is level on points with Bayern and will next take on Hoffenheim. Third-place Borussia Dortmund has a tricky task against coach Marco Rose's old team, Borussia Mönchengladbach, and will hope to move closer to fixing its problems in defense. Leipzig has only four points from five games under American coach Jesse Marsch and hosts Hertha Berlin. Wolfsburg, Dortmund and Leipzig all play Saturday.

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James Ellingworth, The Associated Press

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