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First against fifth

FCB host Mainz in top clash

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Between the matches away to cup holders Wolfsburg last weekend and chief rivals Borussia Dortmund next Saturday, Bayern take on FSV Mainz – and who would have thought of it as a top clash before a ball was kicked this season? The side lying fifth in the table, and thus in contention for a Champions League qualifying spot, cross swords with the Bavarians at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday (Live in English from 20.00 CET on Twitter and Web Radio).

“They're a very good team, they're among the top teams in the table. They play very intense football, attacking aggressively. Once again, we have to be well prepared,” commented winger Arjen Robben, warning that the encounter with the men from Rhineland-Palatinate is not going to be a walkover. Bayern would greatly benefit from a win over FSV prior to the weekend showdown: “It's very important for us to win against Mainz, so that we travel to face Dortmund with at least an eight-point lead,” added Robben.

Mainz strong in 2016

Pep Guardiola also issued a warning after the final pre-match training session on Tuesday. “Mainz don’t only defend near their own box,” analysed the FCB head coach prior to the encounter with FSV, who surprisingly downed Leverkusen 3-1 on Sunday and have now taken 12 points from six matches, making them the fourth-best Bundesliga team in the second half of the season. “They have dynamic players with lots of quality up front. It's going to be an interesting match.”

Another victory in the “decisive week” would be “a giant stride” towards a fourth German championship title in a row, said FCB skipper Philipp Lahm. “If we win the games we can definitely speak of the championship, even though it's far away and we still have several games after it. However, it would be very, very hard to catch up with us in this case,” declared Lahm.

FCB in good condition

An interesting question is who will play on Wednesday. Will Guardiola give some of his first-team regulars a breather in advance of the clash with Dortmund? Or would he rather his regulars preserved their rhythm? Guardiola reassured fans that his players are in good condition: “All of them had a winter break. It's an integral part of the season. If you want to achieve your goals there's no such thing as fatigue,” the head coach declared.

Apart from the centre-back trio Jérôme Boateng, Holger Badstuber and Javi Martínez, who has resumed running, the Catalan has the whole squad at his disposal. The decision on a starting line-up will be made on Wednesday. “It isn't so important who plays. There isn't any difference in quality between their regulars and their subs,” commented Mainz coach Martin Schmidt, aware of what his troops can expect.

Pre-match news from Mainz:

  • Unavailable: Stefan Bell, Pierre Bengtsson, Yoshinori Muto, Emil Berggreen, Henrique Sereno, Elkin Soto and Philipp Klement
  • Coach Martin Schmidt: “We're going there to have fun, to score goals. It's not a holiday trip, it's going to be a stiff fight. We'll try to make it a typical Mainz game, then anything can happen.”