FC Bayern is about to face an opponent that has caused endless headaches for them over the past two seasons. Judging by the DFL Supercup and the past two games of the season, Mainz 05 could just turn out to be another fly for Bayern to swat away with ease.
The win over Stuttgart demonstrated Bayern’s strengths. They tackled a 1-0 deficit in the manner in which the 2010 or 2001 Bayern would—they took the game in their own hands. Twenty minutes and six goals later, Matthias Sammer and Jupp Heynckes both flashed broad smiles.
Two of the goals brought sections of the crowd to their feet. First of all, Toni Kroos forced the net to move by hitting the ball from outside the box with plenty of flair to add to Thomas Müller’s opener. Luiz Gustavo struck one with venom for the third, bringing Heynckes to his feet. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Müller and Mario Mandzukic added further goals.
Almost the same set of players failed to get the job done against Mainz in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Mainz beat Bayern, 2-1, in 2010 deservedly. They lost the reverse fixture, 3-1 in 2011. At the end of 2011, they beat Bayern 3-2. In truth, the match wasn’t close. Mainz had a two-goal lead for most of the match. Daniel Van Buyten’s double wasn’t enough because of errors by the Bayern back-line.
Finally, the fixture at the Allianz Arena ended 0-0 last season. This game had very little significance in truth to either side. Mainz was already guaranteed safety while Dortmund had already secured the title, leaving Bayern with only one possible position in table—the dreaded second place.
Mainz succeeds in troubling Bayern because they tend to use the same tactics as Dortmund. They press the opponent incessantly, forcing them into errors. Bayern already beat Dortmund in pre-season in the DFL Supercup. Jupp Heynckes has seemingly finally realized that his side is capable of transitioning from defence to attack very quickly. Bayern counter-attacked against Stuttgart with great effect.
Arjen Robben, amongst the Bayern attackers, holds up play sometimes. He possesses pace but sometimes doesn’t use it. Robben is doubtful for this weekend after he was sent home from the Netherlands camp due to injury. Apparently, the injury is not a serious one. Even if he is fit for the weekend, he might start from the bench.
The next huge question concerns Javier Martinez. He came on for a fourteen minute cameo against Stuttgart. He has fit in well it seems so far. However, Martinez will take time to adapt. This game might be too early for him to be granted a start, especially considering the opponent is not an easy one. Perhaps, his starting debut will come against Valencia on Tuesday, considering he knows Spanish opposition well.
This might be the line-up on Saturday:
Philipp Lahm; Jerome Boateng; Dante; Holger Badstuber
Bastian Schweinsteiger; Luiz Gustavo
Thomas Müller; Toni Kroos; Franck Ribery
Müller might be rested because he starred in both of Germany’s internationals. Hence, Xherdan Shaqiri might start. Dante, meanwhile, has seemingly cemented his spot in the Bayern line-up. He has started in all of the three competitive fixtures so far. When David Alaba and Diego Contento return, Jupp Heynckes will have some serious headaches.
In other news, Bayern has climbed to second in the UEFA club rankings with only Barcelona ahead of them in the co-efficient list. As Karl Heinz Rummenigge put it, this puts more pressure on Bayern to perform well in the Champions League and perhaps reach a third final in four seasons (and win it for a change).
Ahead of the showdown with Valencia in a competition that provides heart-breaking memories for the club, Jupp Heynckes will want his charges refreshed and ready to go. Especially considering they have won just one of their previous six Champions League finals and lost a total of five out of nine appearances in the final.
Mainz will not be easy to beat- but Bayern, especially at the Allianz Arena, is likely to get the job done.
Prediction: Bayern 3-1 Mainz