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Champions in Mainz?

Title a possibility, focus and rhythm a must

There is a simple set of circumstances in which Bayern can be crowned champions this weekend. If the runaway leaders beat FSV Mainz away from home on Saturday (Live in English from 3.30 pm CET on Twitter and Web Radio) and Dortmund (away to Hannover) and Schalke (home to Braunschweig) fail to win, the Reds can no longer be dislodged from top spot. This is only the 26th round of matches so it would be the earliest-ever title triumph. But will it happen? Arjen Robben is sceptical. “I’m not assuming anything,” said the Dutchman. Toni Kroos agreed: “It’s out of our hands, and in any case it doesn’t matter when we clinch it. The important thing is not to ease off in any match. We have to maintain our focus.“ That will be no different in Mainz.

As a result, Bayern travel to face the side lying fifth in the standings with no celebration planned. The game fundamentally marks the start of the build-up to the Champions League quarter-final clash with Manchester United. “Regardless of when we win the league, we have to maintain our rhythm, in daily training and against every team put in front of us,” declared Matthias Sammer on Friday. “It’s important to focus on every match and keep on improving with an eye on the Champions League quarter-final,” added Pep Guardiola.

Thiago sidelined

The trip to high-flying Mainz therefore comes as a welcome and potentially tough test. “They have bite, they tackle hard and they’re very aggressive,” warned Thomas Müller. FSV are the third best team of 2014 so far behind only Bayern und Schalke and have conceded only once in their last four home matches. “Mainz have only lost one of their last 11 games, which shows how good they are,” noted Guardiola, who is without Holger Badstuber and Thiago (bruised thigh).

“It’s always been tough in Mainz,” observed Robben, “they have a good coach, lots of spirit and plenty of passion.“ Guardiola believes the opposition will press aggressively high up the field “and try to hit us immediately on the break when we lose possession.” Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel is a past master at not revealing his likely formation prior to kick-off. Already this season FSV have played with a diamond or a flat four in midfield, and operated with a back five in the reverse fixture at the Allianz Arena, which ended 4–1 to Munich. “Mainz are very flexible,” commented Kroos, “they change their formation and tactics more than any other team.“

Confident Mainz up for the challenge

The Mainz camp is brimming with confidence prior to the clash with the leaders from Munich. “We’re really looking forward to the challenge, because we’re convinced this is the ideal point in time for us to play Bayern,” declared Tuchel, “we’ll do whatever we can to prevent a Munich title party on our home ground this Saturday. We believe we can win it.“

However, FCB are also keen to claim the three points: it would be a record 18th league victory on the trot. “We just have to keep it up,” said Robben on the eve of the match at a sold-out Coface Arena. The visitors may be champions by quarter-past five on Saturday afternoon, but that is not the point at issue. “If it happens, it happens,” mused Guardiola. Naturally there would be some form of celebration but nothing excessive: “The players are intelligent and know it’s the Champions League again in two weeks,“ the boss remarked.