The two German teams go into their final Europa League group games with very little left on the line. Schalke are expected to rest several players in Salzburg, while Mainz are expected to field a strong side.
Despite the fact that Mainz, in third place in Group C, have no chance of advancing to the round of 32, head coach Martin Schmidt told reporters his side were determined to get their first home win in European competition when they face Gabala on Thursday. He also said they hoped to use the game againstGabala, who they beat in Azerbaijan 3-2, to build momentum for the Bundesliga.
"We have to get the right result if we are to travel to Mönchengladbach full of confidence on the weekend," Schmidt said, referring to Mainz's away match on Sunday.
He also said there would be no question of taking Gabala lightly, despite the fact that they haven't earned a single point in the group.
"I have a lot of respect for this opponent. They went into the lead against us and they were ahead for a long time against Anderlecht," he said. "We can't beat them with a B or C team."
With a win on Thursday, Mainz could move into a second place tie on points with St. Etienne, but the French team came out on top (by an away goal) in their two matches, meaning that even if that happened, St. Etienne would advance.
A chance for Schalke's youngsters and returnees
The other Bundesliga team in the competition are at the other end of the spectrum; Schalke have sailed through Group I, having won all five of their games, while outscoring the opposition 9-1. This gives head coach Markus Weinzierl the luxury of resting some of his players in Salzburg - with a view to their game on Sunday against Leverkusen, which, he told reporters before departing for Austria, is "more important."
This means a number of players who haven't seen many, if any minutes in the Bundesliga would be justified in getting their hopes up for Thursday night. Among them is 19-year-old Fabian Reese, who made his debut in a 45-minute outing against Nice a fortnight ago.
"I had always dreamed about that. I am thankful for every minute and will try to use any opportunity," Reese said.
Weinzierl could even elect to rest first-choice goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann and give Fabian Giefer his first match minutes in almost two years.
"It's worth considering," the coach confirmed.
In defense, the coach can also consider fielding Japanese international Atsuto Uchida for the first time since March 2015; Uchida has missed well over a year with a serious knee injury but could play his first match under Weinzierl on Thursday.
At the same time, though, Weinzierl stressed that they would still be going for the win against a weakened Red Bull side.
"We are not going to give the game away. We will be after our sixth victory in our sixth Europa League match," he said.
He and the rest of Schalke may even draw a bit of extra incentive from the fact that they are playing against the "sister club" of RB Leipzig, who got a little help from the referee in the Royal Blues' 2-1 defeat on Saturday.
"Video reviews need to be introduced as quickly as possible," Weinzierl said, referring to Timo Werner's dive in the boxthat resulted in a converted and decisive penalty. What's more, it also led to a booking for Schalke keeper Fährmann, a yellow card that stands despite replays showing that there had been no contact between him and Werner.
"It would be absurd if Fährmann were to wind up with a suspension at the end of the season because of this," Weinzierl said.