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Preview: FC Bayern vs. FSV Mainz 05

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In Match Week 31 of the 2011-2012 Bundesliga season. After the crushing loss on Wednesday, FC Bayern's chances of winning the Bundesliga are exceedingly slim. But, with first-place Dortmund still facing a couple of conceivably losable matches, Die Roten won't give up yet, and will be hoping for a win at home.

The Line-Up

Interesting questions here ... with the Champions League match vs. Real Madrid looming, Bayern wants to get some rest for the vital players who have been logging heavy minutes. A complete B-team, though, would put us at risk of a loss (keep in mind Mainz beat us earlier this season), which would salt away the Bundesliga title for BVB for sure, and also prevent us from generating any positive momentum going into the Real match.

My guess:

Olic

Ribery - Kroos - Pranjic

Schweinsteiger - Tymoschuk

Contento - Badstuber - Rafinha - Lahm

Butt

Some guess-work here, obviously, but I think at least informed guess work. The two Croatians have seemingly earned at least a modest bit of trust from Jupp Heynckes recently, and that's still a pretty threatening front 4 against a Mainz defense that's just mediocre. Gustavo had that knock in the Dortmund match - he was able to play the rest of the match, but I think he could stand a break (especially with Tymo being a pretty reliable backup). Schweini seems like he needs the work more than he needs the rest. And Neuer might play, just a hunch on that GK pick.

We'll have official line-ups as soon as they're available Saturday morning.

The Opponent

The first Mainz match was one of the uglier losses of our mid-season swoon, replete with defensive errors and mental breakdowns. I wrote about it here. Interesting, after that match, they didn't win again for the next 6 games, so I feel justified in saying that November match was more a question of Bayern blowing it rather than Mainz just being a really good team.

They can't be taken for granted, though, as their smashing win over Koeln last week showed. Koeln is having an off year, but Michael Rensing is still a decent 'keeper and Mainz put 4 past him. Itinerant Egyptian international Mohamed Zidan is possibly their biggest offensive threat. But in the November match, it was their defenders and middies who scored all 3 of their goals. In fact, van Buyten had both of ours, so that was a match that saw 5 goals, none of them being scored by a striker.

They can be broken down, though, if we play our game properly. Mainz has allowed 3 or more goals 8 times this season, and 2 weeks ago they let VFB rattle off 4 straight. So if we can control the middle of the field and create some chances, there's will be opportunities to get an early goal and seize control.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga

Dortmund travels to Schalke in a huge Westphalian derby. If Die Blau und Weiss can pick up a win in that one, suddenly the Bundeliga title is still up in the air. Or maybe at least someone can kick Neven Subotic in the ribs. I promise full video highlights if that happens.

Stuttgart decisively beat Werder Bremen today, and they're breathing down the neck of BMG for that final Champions League spot. VfB now hasn't lost since February 19. Werder's loss hurts them badly in the race for Europa League spots; Leverkusen (home vs. Hertha) and Hannover (at Hamburg) will each be looking to increase their chances of playing in Europe next year with a win.

Final Notes

- Our match has the Prime-Time billing on Saturday: 5:30 PM local time, 12:30 PM Eastern and 9:30 AM Pacific in North America. If you're a Californian, Oregonian, Washingtonian, Arizonian, or British Columbian, this is your chance to sleep until 9 and still get to watch the match. I don't know what time zone Alberta and Sasketchewan are on.

- The match will be aired live on ESPN 3 and ESPN Deportes. Keep in mind, though, that ESPN Deportes sometimes changes programming or institutes delays at the last minute. We'll be here with the line-ups and that Match Day Thread before game time.

- Finally, an important note: on the old site, we had instituted a rule against any use of rape or sexual assault as a metaphor for what happens on the football pitch. I didn't think we'd have to reiterate that rule on the new site, but apparently we do. Part of the reason behind this continuing problem is that, the last time we had this conversation, I tried to patiently explain this rule and the logic behind it, instead of just laying it down. So, effective immediately: no use of the term "rape" or other references to sexual assault or sexual crimes as a metaphor will be tolerated, and any such comments will be deleted. Why? Because that's my rule, and this is my fucking sandbox. Thanks for reading.