If this season has brought anything, it is the consistently changing challenges the champions have had to face. Bayern had little trouble getting a solid result against Mainz in September, but that Mainz team has now gotten on the same page to present a whole new difficult task for Bayern to deal with.
Over the years, it has not mattered that kind of challenge Mainz has posed, and Bayern's seven-match winning streak against them reflects that. However, this Mainz team has beaten all of the opponents required to get back into the European picture, including Borussia Mönchengladbach, Schalke and Leverkusen. Those three Mainz victims have given Bayern a lot of trouble when they played hosts to the defending champions, and Mainz will hope to do the same.
However, Bayern is starting to find their rhythm again. Two-match weeks are now a regular thing, and a refreshed Bayern squad cares less than before. Players will not only be fighting for results, but also for a consistent role in the squad, which can only be a good thing for a team aspiring for another treble.
The Match (22nd Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Referee: Sascha Stegemann
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Television and Streaming:
US: Fox Sports 1 | HD, Fox Sports GO, Fox Soccer 2Go
Canada: Sportsnet World Now
UK: BT Sport Europe, BT Sport Live Streaming
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 1 & 3 | HD, Sky Go, TeleClub Sport Live
Bundesliga: 14 W, 2 D, 3 L
DFB Pokal: 2 W, 0 D, 0 L
Largest Victory: 4-0 (Bundesliga: December 16, 2006, Mainz)
Largest Defeat: 2-3 (Bundesliga: November 27, 2011, Mainz)
A month ago, Bayern's squad numbers were putrid, but now Pep Guardiola has this midweek fixture to have a little tactical fun. All of his attacking players are not only fit, but have played in recent weeks. That means he can use precise pieces to pick apart Mainz's defense.
Since Mainz does not have the quickest of fullbacks, using players that are fleet of foot will be important. Barn-burners Kingsley Coman and Franck Ribery will be the perfect pair, especially with their service abilities. Both can individually demand attention and make quicker one-on-one decisions that will give them the acre of space they need. If Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski break free in the penalty area, the Frenchmen will pick them out, and the fact both have strong penalty area experience will give Bayern a very straightforward, penalty area presence.
The defense will be a little more straight forward, and with their performance against Wolfsburg over the weekend, there is still no reason for Pep Guardiola to change anything. Juan Bernat and Philipp Lahm will overwhelm Mainz's brand of flankers, and none of Mainz's central attackers have the ability to overpower either David Alaba or Joshua Kimmich. If anything, Mainz's physical midfield needs to be dampened, which is a big reason Arturo Vidal will need to play.
Only a handful of times has opposing form mattered in their results this season, and none of those results were in Allianz Arena.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Franck Ribéry – Thomas Müller – Kingsley Coman
Arturo Vidal – Thiago Alcantara
Juan Bernat – David Alaba – Joshua Kimmich – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Sven Ureich, Rafinha, Medhi Benatia, Xabi Alonso, Mario Götze, Douglas Costa, Arjen Robben
Out/Suspended: Holger Badstuber (ankle), Jerome Boateng (groin), Javi Martinez (knee)
On paper, Mainz may not look like a team who should be contending for Europe, but their basic team construction suggest otherwise. Strong defense? Check. Offensive star? Check. Balanced attack? Check. Above-average goalkeeper? check. Solid midfield tandem? Check.
Still, how does a team who consistently has to sell its best players find a way to contend? Mainz is a club who has found a way to extract the best talent out of their young acquisitions. Jairo Samperio and Christian Clemens are two players who did not work out at Schalke and Sevilla respectively, but Markus Schmidt has put them in positions where both have made a big impact. That makes losing someone like Yoshinori Mutō a mere footnote, though it helps Jhon Cordoba has stepped up in his place.
The one trouble Mainz can get into is discipline, especially in midfield. Julian Baumgartlinger and Danny Latza are a very physical pair, but both are prone to rash challenges. Their defensive assertiveness has helped Mainz stay in games and shield the defense, but each can give away bad fouls in good positions. The two of them will both be key to stopping Bayern's shifty attack, and Baumgartlinger would gladly take a yellow card suspension next week if it means keeping Mainz in the hunt for Europe.
Teams do not get into the top-five just on a whim, and Mainz has the ability to find a result. Whether they can against the best team in Germany is a big question, one that could have ramifications on their European viability.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Jairo Samperio – Yunus Malli – Christian Clemens
Julian Baumgartlinger – Danny Latza
Gaëtan Bussmann – Nico Bungert – Leon Balogun – Giulio Donati
Bench: Gianluca Curci, Daniel Brosinski, Alexander Hack, Fabian Frei, Christoph Moritz, Suat Serdar, Pablo De Blasis
Out/Suspended: Stefan Bell (knee), Pierre Bengtsson (ankle), Emil Berggreen (knee), Philipp Klement (thigh), Yoshinori Mutō (knee), Karim Onisowo (toe), Elkin Soto (knee)
Mainz is surely a team that knows how to defend, using a very simple 4-4-2 scheme that spares their attacking players. Bayern have one advantage that has worked for them all season: one-on-one ability. If they can use that to split the Mainz defense, they could get some very punishing shots on goal not even the hard-working Loris Karius can save. With more attacking talent to work with, Bayern's attack has looked more formidable, and it will take a formidable offensive effort to dislodge Mainz from their current form.
Projected Score: Bayern Munich (2-0) Mainz 05
The Other Action
Hannover vs. Wolfsburg (Tuesday, 2:00 PM ET)
FC Ingolstadt 04 vs. Köln (Tuesday, 9:30 AM ET)
Schalke vs. Hamburger SV (Wednesday, 2:00 PM ET)
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Stuttgart (Wednesday, 2:00 PM ET)
Hertha Berlin vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (Wednesday, 2:00 PM ET)
Hoffenheim vs. Augsburg (Wednesday, 2:00 PM ET)
SV Darmstadt 98 vs. Borussia Dortmund (Wednesday, 2:00 PM ET)
UEFA Champions League Opponent
Inter Milan vs. Juventus (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Werder Bremen (Wednesday, 2:00 PM ET)
|Hertha Berliner SC||11||6||6||31||24||+7||37|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||11||3||9||32||29||+3||36|
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||10||5||8||32||26||+6||35|
|FC Schalke 04||10||5||8||31||29||+2||35|
|FC Ingolstadt 04||8||6||9||17||24||-7||30|
|1. FC Köln||7||8||8||24||29||-5||29|
|SV Darmstadt 98||6||7||10||25||36||-11||25|
|SV Werder Bremen||5||6||12||27||46||-19||21|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||3||9||11||23||36||-13||18|