In match week 14 of the 2011-2012 Bundesliga season. FC Bayern's most recent league match was a disappointing 1-0 loss to Dortmund, although we did alleviate the pain a bit by securing first place in the group in Champions League play three days ago. Meanwhile, Mainz went two months in Bundesliga play without a win until their last match, when they beat Stuttgart 3-1. Last week, their match was canceled after the tragic suicide attempt of the day's referee. This is the final match of the weekend, kicking off at 11:30 AM Easter in the USA, 3:30 PM Greenwich mean time, and 4:30 PM local time in the Rhineland.
Of the regular starters, Holger Badstuber and Gustavo are likely the freshest - both sat the entire match vs. Villarreal on Tuesday. Badstuber was suspended, Gustavo sat to allow Tymoschuk to play in midfield. So those two will likely start, with van Buyten probably making way for Badstuber, or else perhaps Rafinha getting a rest and the back line of Lahm - Badstuber - van Buyten - Boateng getting a shot.
Gustavo is also a good bet to start, which would allow Tymo to sit and Goose to pair up with Toni Kroos in the middle of the field. With Robben getting back to full health, our traditional front four of Ribery - Müller - Robben + Gomez could start up top. But Ribery was quoted by Sport1 as saying that he prefers Kroos at the no. 10 / CAM spot. This is soon going to present a tough situation for Jupp Heynckes - once Bastian returns, there will be no more shuffling Kroos back to the midfield, so we have 5 guys for 4 positions. Week in and week out, it's better to have too many guys as opposed to too few. Still, for the biggest matches, someone's going to have to start on the bench. If it were up to me, I guess I'd have to say Müller starts and Kroos comes off the bench, but I know a lot of Bayern fans disagree. Stay tuned.
Mainz surprised everyone last season, finishing a strong 5th and winning 18 of their 34 Bundesliga matches (including 10 wins on the road). But success has been harder to find this year - after two straight victories to open the season, Mainz went into a slump, failing to win a match until the first weekend in November, when they beat VfB. Also, they got dumped out of the Europa League in the final qualifying round, losing on penalties to something called Gaz Metan. Thanks for helping the coefficient, guys.
But, they're still outside the relegation zone, and have a game in hand on the rest of the league after last week's cancellation, so this Mainz club is not a bottom-feeder. They appear to line up in a 4-4-2, but with the midfield 4 having one dedicated defensive stopper and one guy leaning forward to help feed the strikers, almost in a diamond-midfield formation. This attacking-middie role is usually filled by Andreas Ivanschitz, who also leads Mainz with 3 goals, so we'll mark him as the guy to keep an eye on. They also have Marcel Risse, the young ex-Leverkusen midfielder who used to play on the German under-20 team, but he has missed a few matches due to injury and is doubtful for Sunday.
- The match will be broadcast live on Gol! TV. It's not on the ESPN 3 list yet, but we'll see if they add it at the last minute.
- Mainz plays at the brand-new Coface Arena. We played there in the pre-season for the Liga Total! Cup (which was really just a glorified practice session), but this is our first meaningful trip to the grounds. It's a pretty nice looking stadium, with apparently several standing-room-only sections.
- Monchengladbach destroyed Koln today, 3-0, so they're temporarily at the top of the Bundesliga table. Schalke and Dortmund are currently in 3rd and 4th, and they play each other, while 5th-place Werder Bremen has a winnable game vs. Stuttgart. So Bayern needs a win on Sunday if we don't want to fall back into the back. We'll be here working the Match Day thread - join us for breakfast at 11 AM, and the match kicks off at 11:30, following by a recap and video highlights immediately following. Thanks for reading.