Bayern Munich will be aiming to retain their four-point gap at the top of the Bundesliga table when they take on 1.FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday.

With just three matches remaining before the Bundesliga goes into a mid-season hiatus, league leaders Bayern Munich have an excellent opportunity to remain on top of things and potentially even extend their four-point lead over Borussia Dortmund, as they play hosts to 1.FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday.

The title race had been a close one in the Bundesliga so far until Bayern’s controversial 3-2 victory over Dortmund in Der Klassiker last weekend. The win helped them extend their lead at the top to four points, but with Die Schwarzgelben facing a relatively easy run of fixtures, the Bavarians simply cannot afford to slip up.

Julian Nagelsmann’s have good momentum coming into this fixture, though, as the Dortmund win was followed by yet another 3-0 battering of FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.

But things could get trickier up against a Mainz team that swept aside VfL Wolfsburg 3-0 to put an end to a three-game winless run. They have now entered the top seven and are only four points behind the Champions League places. In addition, the visitors have the second meanest defence in the league, having conceded only 14 times in the same number of matches.

Bo Svensson’s men had famously secured a win over Bayern Munich earlier in the year, one that ultimately had very little impact on the title race. But a similar result may have massive repercussions for the Rekordmeister this time out, especially with a resurgent Dortmund breathing down Bayern’s men.

Team News & Tactics

Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich have confirmed this week that star player Joshua Kimmich has been ruled out until the next year due to a lung problem. The issue could be a serious one, and he will be under observation throughout the remainder of 2021. He joins Marcel Sabitzer in the club’s list of confirmed absentees heading into this game.

There are doubts regarding the involvement of Leon Goretzka as well, which means Julian Nagelsmann may once again be forced to start with the double-pivot of Jamal Musiala and Corentin Tolisso. Marc Roca is another option should the young tactician opts for a more natural option in central midfield.

However, changes could be in order defensively, with Nagelsmann likely to switch to a back three. It should see Benjamin Pavard making way for Lucas Hernandez, who is likely to form the central defensive line alongside Niklas Sule and Dayot Upamecano.

The return to a back three should offer Bayern more control in possession, which could be vital at a time when Goretzka and Kimmich are not fully fit. Not to mention, it offers Bayern the additional numerical superiority in the final third, with Kingsley Coman and Alphonso Davies serving as direct wingers, who are set to provide the width going forward.

As for the central areas, Leroy Sane and Thomas Muller are expected to operate around zone 14. Sane’s ability to squeeze past challenges could be very useful in breaking the shackles of the Mainz defence that is likely to shut Robert Lewandowski out of the game. Hence, the onus will be on the other attackers to add that goalscoring threat upfront.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Neuer; Sule, Upamecano, Hernandez; Coman, Musiala, Tolisso, Davies; Muller, Sane; Lewandowski

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1.FSV Mainz 05

There shouldn’t be any change in formation from Mainz’s end, with coach Bo Svensson hoping that his 3-1-4-2 system can yield defensive solidity and goals on the break. His front two of Jonathan Burkardt and Karim Onisiwo, in particular, pose a lot of threat for the Bayern backline this weekend.

The two forwards will be assisted by the creative presence of Leandro Barreiro and Jae-sung Lee. While Barreiro’s work ethic, energy and aggression may see him drop in deeper to assist Anton Stach in central midfield, the onus will be on Lee to add that spark in the final third, perhaps even join Burkardt and Onisiwo in the first line of press.

Defensively, the back three of Stefan Bell, Alexander Hack and captain Moussa Niakhate will need to be wary of Bayern’s cross-field passes that often looks to exploit the spaces left in defensive areas of the pitch.

In that regard, Mainz’s two wingbacks in Silvan Widmer and Aaron Martin could play a vital role in neutralising the threat of the opposition’s wide players. But given the pace of Davies and Coman, they have their work cut out and may even need to operate in a deeper role than usual.

Probable Lineup (3-1-4-2): Zentner; Hack, Bell, Niakhate; Stach; Widmer, Lee, Barreiro, Martin; Burkardt, Onisiwo

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Key Stats

  • Robert Lewandowski has 19 goals in 21 competitive meetings with Mainz.
  • Thomas Müller has won 290 of the 397 Bundesliga matches he has featured in. Victory here would move him level with Manfred Kaltz and into the league’s all-time top three for wins.
  • Julian Nagelsmann could win a milestone 100th Bundesliga game as coach in this fixture, in his 199th match overall (D59 L40).
  • Bo Svensson has been Mainz coach for 34 Bundesliga games now – the equivalent of a full season. He has earned 54 points in that time (W15 D9 L10), which would have equated to a sixth-placed finish last term.
  • Mainz defender Jeremiah St. Juste is the fastest player in the Bundesliga this season after being clocked at 22.76 mph (36.53 kmh).

Player to Watch

Jonathan Burkardt

Jonathan Burkardt is rapidly emerging as one of Germany’s best attacking talents, thanks to an excellent start to the new season at Mainz. The centre forward is currently Mainz’s top-scorer with seven goals, while his tally in all competitions stands at ten, more than any other German player in Europe’s top five leagues this season.

The 21-year-old found the back of the net in the most recent win over Wolfsburg, scoring the early opener. His clinical form in form of goal could be vital for Mainz, who are not expected to gain many scoring opportunities against Bayern. The Bavarians will also need to be careful of Burkardt’s strike-partner Karim Onisiwo, who has registered seven assists to his name this season.

Prediction

Bayern Munich 1-1 1.FSV Mainz 05

Mainz have one of the best defences in the Bundesliga and are led by a tactically adept coach, who has what it takes to get the better of Bayern Munich. They are also quite lethal on the counter, especially if the strike duo of Jonathan Burkardt and Karim Onisiwo can continue their merry ways of scoring goals.

However, Bayern Munich are enjoying a good run of form lately and reacted extraordinarily in midweek. But with Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka, we are expecting the Rekordmeister to struggle against Mainz’s sharp attack. As such, it won’t be a surprise to see the teams sharing the spoils this weekend.

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