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FCB prepared for 'tough game' against Mainz

The stars were scattered around the globe earlier in the week, in Argentina, China and the Faroe Islands, but on Friday afternoon Pep Guardiola finally gathered his full first-team squad following the two-week international break. On Saturday, little over 24 hours later, Bayern return to Bundesliga action at home to Mainz (Live in English from 3.30 pm CET on Web Radio). And despite the minimum in preparation time, FCB are determined to extract the maximum from the fixture, namely the three points which would guarantee staying top of the league.

However, it will be far from easy. “Mainz have had ten days to focus on the match, but we’ve held our first pre-match training session today,” Guardiola pointed out at Friday’s press conference. The two teams’ state of readiness for the game could hardly be more different, and the FCB coach issued an early warning: “I already know it’ll be a tough game tomorrow.”

In large part, that will be due to the quality of the team currently lying 11th in the standings. As part of his pre-match analysis, Guardiola consulted Bayern’s former Mainz men Jan Kirchhoff and Toni Tapalovic. “They told me lots of good things about Thomas Tuchel. I believe he’s a clever coach,” said the Bayern boss, praising the way Saturday’s opponents play: “They have a variety of formations, they run hard, and they’re well organised in defence.”

Rediscovering the rhythm

“It’ll be hard work, because Mainz will keep it very tight at the back,” agreed Mario Götze, hoping he and his team-mates can come up with “an early goal.” The Germany international, who is rapidly recovering form after a lengthy injury lay-off, is unlikely to start the match due to the need for an extended period of fitness training, Guardiola indicated: “He needs a little more time.” However, the 21-year-old is sure to feature at some point. “I can give him playing minutes, and I will give him playing minutes,” the boss stated.

The squad will likely be the same as for the previous Bundesliga match, where FCB moved to the top of the table. “We need to recover our rhythm as quickly as possible,” commented Guardiola. The FCB coach has not forgotten what happened four weeks ago after the previous international break, when Bayern failed to fire on all cylinders in a dour 2-0 victory over Hannover. “I hope we play better than we did then,” the Spaniard said.

The coach feels Bayern have plenty of room to improve, especially in front of the home faithful. “We’ve only played a few minutes of good football at home,” he observed, hoping the meeting with Mainz will be the occasion for his team to reproduce the form they showed on their travels to Leverkusen, Manchester and Schalke. “If we would care to take one or two more of our chances, I think it’ll look much better,” added Thomas Müller, recalling the excellent display in Leverkusen, but the unsatisfactory 1-1 outcome.

Mainz without first-choice keeper

Speaking of men called Müller, Mainz have two, and both are injured. First-choice keeper Heinz Müller (back) was ruled out on Friday, with striker Nicolai Müller (sprain) rated doubtful. Visiting boss Tuchel described Saturday’s clash as “our Champions League match,” noting that Bayern have achieved “a new level of quality” in recent games. However, Tuchel insisted, he and his men were not running up the white flag before a ball has been kicked: “We’re gifting them nothing!”

In the first of three home fixtures in the space of a week, Bayern must expect stiff resistance from the visitors, as former Mainz defender Kirchhoff confirmed: “It’s not an easy way to get back into it after the international break.”