Bayern Munich entered Wednesday's clash with Mainz as overwhelming favorites. The Bavarian giants had been beaten just once all season in the Bundesliga, and they had a perfect record of 11 wins in as many games at home.
During Pep Guardiola's time as head coach, they had lost just three games at the Allianz Arena in league play, an absolutely outstanding record.
Yet Mainz did what so many before them had failed to do: They not only took points from Bayern at the Allianz, they went ahead and then scored the winner after conceding an equalizer.
It was an improbable result that, coupled with Borussia Dortmund's 2-0 win against Darmstadt, saw Bayern's lead over BVB cut to five points.
Now Bayern have their slimmest lead in months. In their next fixture, though, they have it entirely in their power to restore an eight-point gap atop the table: Three days after seeing their lead reduced, they face second-placed Dortmund.
Some might consider it a bad thing that they face BVB at this point: A loss would reduce the Bavarians' lead to just two points, with a serious momentum shift in the Ruhr side's favor. It is true that Bayern are in a somewhat dangerous position now.
Just a 5 point different in the Bundesliga.— Coral (@Coral) March 2, 2016
Dortmund vs. Bayern. Tasty! pic.twitter.com/tsXtqGT5iO
At the same time, with risk comes potential reward. And according to the odds, that isn't a bad thing for Bayern. According to Odds Shark, despite playing away from home, Guardiola's men are favorites to beat Dortmund on Saturday and regain their eight-point lead.
As well they should be. Bayern have Dortmund's best player of the millennium in Robert Lewandowski leading their attack, and their team is valued by Transfermarkt at €578.55 million, almost double BVB's €315.65 million.
When Bayern hosted BVB in the fall, they blew away their opponents. It was close at half-time, just 2-1 in the home side's favor. But Lewandowski scored moments after the break and less than a quarter-hour later, and former BVB man Mario Gotze added a fifth entering the final quarter of the match.
Having conceded three goals to their former players, Dortmund had no answer. Bayern put on one of their best performances of the season and were deserved, comprehensive winners.
Although Bayern are in a vulnerable position on Saturday, they'll know what's at stake as they take on Dortmund. They did in the fall, which is why they brought their A-game against BVB even when they were sometimes less brilliant against less dangerous opponents.
All of a sudden, the Dortmund-Bayern match gets pretty interesting, as BVB can get within two points of Bayern with a win.— Constantin Eckner (@cc_eckner) March 2, 2016
Bayern almost always have another level that they can discover in themselves when crunch time comes. And they should; they're one of the best clubs in the world and have a coach who many regard as an all-time great. The ability to increase level of play when it matters most is the sign of a great, championship-winning side with an elite coach.
So although some may contend that Bayern's high-profile showdown with Dortmund comes at a bad time, it actually isn't as bad as some might think. The Bavarian side are healthier now than they've been in months and have every chance of taking all three points.
It would be no better to simply hope they could win other games while hoping BVB will drop points; both are much better than the other sides they play in Germany, and Thomas Tuchel's men have hardly slipped up either.
But on Saturday, Bayern have fate in their own hands; they can force Dortmund to drop points directly to them as they re-establish their eight-point lead.
Bayern don't need luck, they have the team to take on any challenge head on. So just as some might doubt their title credentials, Saturday will be the perfect time to take on Dortmund. Yes, there's risk, but they'll be favorites. And with a win, they'll essentially wrap up the Bundesliga title.