After launching their Champions League group stage campaign with a disjointed performance against RSC Anderlecht, Bayern Munich shifts its focus to the next task at hand. That task is a home game against Mainz 05, a little team with a lot of heart.
Time for Bayern to get its mind back on soccer
After a troubling 3-0 victory over Anderlecht, Bayern Munich will seek yet again to banish the drama trailing both coach and players. They face a cagey opponent at the Allianz Arena, but the odds are stacked in their favor.
The main question heading into the match is who Ancelotti will to rest. Joshua Kimmich is the only player to play every minute of the season thus far, and it seems that that trend must continue while Rafinha fills in at left-back. As for the rest of the lineup, we can expect Ancelotti to rotate several players to rest weary legs and test others.
Given who is rested and available, we should perhaps expect a hybrid 4-3-3:
Neuer; Rafinha, Hummels, Boateng, Kimmich; Thiago, Rudy, Vidal; Coman, Lewandowski, Müller
A fully rested Mats Hummels can line up alongside Jerome Boateng, who celebrated a successful comeback against Anderlecht. Similarly fresh, Sebastian Rudy can ply his trade as deep-lying playmaker, while Thiago and Arturo Vidal battle Mainz's midfield and drive the ball forward. If Ancelotti opts to rest Thiago, we may see Vidal paired with Corentin Tolisso.
On offense, it seems likely that the pacy Kingsley Coman will replace Franck Ribery. Thomas Müller can return to the starting lineup on the “off-right” - no one, of course, should expect Müller to stay out right like Robben. On attack, Müller would drift inside while Kimmich moves to attack on the right flank vacated by Müller, with Thiago and Vidal not far behind.
Mainz catch a break before their big day
The start of the season for Mainz did not go as planned. Under new coach Sandro Schwarz, Mainz opened the season with back-to-back games against both promoted sides, Hannover 96 and VfB Stuttgart - and lost to both 1-0. Pitted against Bayer Leverkusen for matchday 3, Schwarz switched from a 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3 and decisively beat Leverkusen 3-1. So it goes.
Riding that wave of success, Mainz also have been spared serious injury. The fitness of central attacking midfielder Danny Latza (calf) and center-forward Yoshinori Muto (cold) was doubtful earlier in the week, but both key players now seem likely to start against Bayern.
Mainz have some (longer-term) momentum on their side, too. They enjoyed remarkable success at the Allianz under former coach Martin Schmidt, who beat Pep Guardiola 2-1 and tied Ancelotti 2-2 at the end of last season, leading 2-1 at halftime. Schwarz obviously does not want to break the trend and will field his best lineup. It should look like this:
Adler; Diallo, Bell, Balogun; Brosinski, Latza, Frei, Donati; de Blasis, Muto, Öztunali
Mainz will play defensively, but, if they play like they did under Schmidt, they will be fully ready and willing to launch bold attacks when presented the chance. Brosinski and Donati may drop back to create a five-man back line under pressure, but Mainz will punish mistakes, counter quickly, and risk putting men forward to capitalize on their chances.