The transfer market craziness has died down throughout the football world, and it's back to business. In the Bundesliga, Bayern's lead over Leverkusen is up to an impressive 11 points. Bayern has 3 matches to go in our "first quarter" of the spring campaign, and this might be the toughest one: a resurgent Mainz squad. Throw in a long road trip and the possibility of rough weather, and the boys will have their work cut out for them in ...
Match Week 20 of the 2012-2013 Bundesliga season. Bayern hasn't lost since October, though that run has included 4 draws and few moments of inconsistent play. Still, we're on a good roll, and be looking to notch our 4th straight 2-0 win (at least).
Every week, I call for some rotation, and every week we start our best XI. So, here's my guess:
Ribery - Kroos - Mueller
Martinez - Schweinsteiger
Alaba - Dante - van Buyten - Lahm
Ribery is apparently OK, but Shaq and Rafinha are both out. Boateng is of course a possibility at CB, as is Robben at one of the wing spots and Gomez up top. But I called that last weekend, and none of it happened, so let's see if I can reverse the flow by calling for the same line-up
Adam Szalai, Mainz's star striker, leads the club with 11 goals. But he'll miss out on this one, serving a suspension due to accumulated yellows. Andreas Ivanschitz, the Austrian international, is also a threat (5 goals and 4 assists total in league + Pokal play). Lahm and Alaba have both been playing great lately, pushing forward to help threaten the opponent's goal while also staying in a position to get back and shut down a counter. They'll need to be especially astute tomorrow.
Last week, I believe we learned that William Kvist was VfB's "hidden gem." For Mainz, WhoScored tells us that it might be Colombian veteran Elkin Soto. The midfielder has scored only once, but he has a couple assists, a pass-completion percentage of 84.4 (second best on the Mainz roster), can defend multiple positions, and doesn't turn the ball over. Soto is their highest rated played, accoriding to WhoScored's calculations, but most of their team is like that, actually. They don't have a ton of flash, but they avoid making mistakes, shut down the passing lanes, and cramp their opponents' style. This could be a tough outing for us.
Elsewhere in the Competition
Bremen and Hannover kick off in a few hours. That one will be carried live on Gol! TV (as will ours on Saturday), and could be a big game for H96. Last week's win kept them in touching distance with a European spot. If they can get a win today, they have a good chance to pick up another next week (vs. lowly TSG) and go into their spring Europa campaign with things in good shape on the domestic front.
Over the weekend, Hamburg vs. Eintracht could be interesting, and VfL vs. Augsburg has relegation-battle implications, but the big match is clear: in Sunday's late match, Dortmund battles Leverkusen in a huge clash. Winner of this has the inside track on second place, and still some chance to make a move on Bayern if we slip down the road. Loser will probably be left to try to hold on to third place (and, if BVB loses, will probably start to focus even more on their CL campaign). This might actually be the biggest match in the world this weekend, though City vs. Liverpool and Barca vs. Valencia would also have a case.
- Our match kicks off at 3:30 Mainz time, and we'll be here with the line-ups and match day thread. Click below for the start time in your area:
Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com
- The Mainz stadium, the Coface Arena, looks pretty cool. On one side, it's surrounded by pastures, farmland, and scrub brush. But on the other, it pretty much backs up to downtown Mainz. You can walk there from many of the nearby neighborhoods, and the whole thing is only a couple miles from the Rhein. Decent picture here.
- As always, if we forgot anything or got anything wrong, let us know in the comments or email us at email@example.com. Thanks for reading.