Mainz, Hertha battling for Europa berth

Two teams chasing an unexpected place in Europe next season go head to head at the Coface Arena this Sunday.

Niki Zimling, Mainz

Mainz and Hertha have both tasted Europa League action in the past three years, but few would have had them down for a return next season.

Currently positioned sixth and eighth, and separated by just two points, the chances of one of the two making it into the Europa League is looking strong.

"Mainz can strengthen their hold on a place in Europe with a win in this game," warned Hertha coach Jos Luhukay at a press conference.

"With a win, we could catch them so it's going to be an interesting game for the coaches."

That is precisely what his Mainz counterpart Thomas Tuchel is expecting.

"I expect it to be a game between two evenly-matched sides," he said.

"They are a very strong, compact and hard-running team. I expect there to be lots of running battles."

Former Mainz forward Sami Allagui will lead the Hertha attack, but Tuchel has no regrets about selling him, instead taking pride in his performances.

"He's playing a great role for them," he said. "Of course we're delighted by that.

"(Adrian) Ramos is probably in the form of his life, and then they have players like (Per) Skjelbred and (Hajime) Hosogai. Anything other than a tight game would surprise me."

Luhukay is rather pleased to have an away game after taking exception to the whistles his side received after a goalless draw with Freiburg last weekend.

"That was sick," said the Dutchman. "It just shows how quickly things change in this business. It's all about success.

"Suddenly I hear people asking why Hertha are weak at home. The fact we lost to Wolfsburg, who have invested between 60 and 70 million euros, only because of minor details having dominated them is forgotten.

"We're a promoted side and we're knocking on the door of the Europa League - there should be great respect for that. We have not deserved the whistles."

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