Champions Bayern will be looking for a double dose of revenge against Mainz in Saturday's evening kick-off.Defiantly Optimistic Against Favourite Opponents
Of all the brilliant memories die Nuell-Fuenfer will take from this season, no matter how it ends up, none will surely outshine 25 September 2010 when Mainz secured their first ever win away to Bayern (1-2) in the Allianz Arena. This was no fluke - Mainz genuinely outplayed the champions as their brand of highly charged, uptempo football reached its zenith.
Since then, the inevitable decline has kicked in and Mainz have just one win in five games after the winter break - a 1-0 victory in the Rheinland derby away to Kaiserslautern. Furthermore, they were overwhelmingly outplayed last week in Koeln in a 4-2 defeat. However, coach Thomas Tuchel remained in good spirits as he reflected on the fact that he has a good record against Bayern.
"Am I a plague for FC Bayern? I hope so! I fear though that statistics alone will not help us. Bayern are a very difficult opponent and the fact that we have beaten them twice has little bearing on Saturday's game," Tuchel told the pre-game press conference.
The slightly eccentric but innovative coach refuses to be downtrodden with pessimism and he has every reason not to be - Mainz are still in contention for a Europa League slot in spite of their stuttering form of 2011. Tuchel is very clear as to what Mainz need to do if they are to shock Bayern once more:
"We must keep the ball well and stay compact. If we succeed in doing so, it can be a typical home game for us, even against such a strong opponent. It will be a challenge but it is our job to overcome that. We trained yesterday in a 4-4-2 diamond system, which worked well. One player in front of the back four and two strikers."
Revenge Is On The Menu
Last week's encounter at home to Hoffenheim saw Bayern's two most spectacular gamechangers reunited for the first time in nine months - namely Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. And it made a difference to the title holders, who blew away Hoffenheim with a convincing four goal rout. In truth, had they have been in the mood, Bayern could have inflicted even more damage.
However, under current coach Louis van Gaal, der Rekordmeister have never triumphed against Mainz (Koeln being the other bogey team for the Dutch tactician) - a statistic that is not lost on captain Philipp Lahm:
"We have to win - that is mandatory. We lost last season in Mainz and we lost at home to them this season. It's clear that we need to take three points away from Mainz and extract a little bit of revenge," he told the club's official website.
Bayern have other, perhaps bigger fish to fry in the coming weeks and with no more hopes of retaining their title being entertained, next week's Champions League knockout tie with Inter takes on even greater significance.
"[They will be] a decisive few weeks. The focus is only on Mainz at the moment. We have not yet spoken about [Inter]," Van Gaal told the press conference.
A positive result - with a performance to match last week's win over Hoffenheim - will stand Bayern in good stead before the Inter game - and also lay a few ghosts to rests regarding Mainz in the process.
Thomas Tuchel's side are without long-term injury casualty Adam Szalai as well as defender Bo Svensson. The main selection quandry is in midfield with Elkin Soto favourite to win the final place in midfield although Eugen Polanski and Andreas Ivanschitz offer more defensive and attacking alternatives respectively. Marcel Risse also comes into the picture.
Probable Starting XI: Mueller - Zabavnik, Bungert, Noveski, Fuchs - Fathi - Caligiuri, Soto, Holtby, Schuerrle - Allagui
It has been yet another injury-affected week for Arjen Robben, whom Bayern cannot afford to lose again for any period of time. He had an adductor problem on Wednesday and suffered a broken little finger a day later. That said, he will play with a splint on the aforementioned digit. Ivica Olic is a long-term casualty and though Toni Kroos and Diego Contento have returned to training, neither have been included in the matchday squad.
Probable Starting XI: Kraft - Lahm, Tymoschuk, Badstuber, Luiz Gustavo - Schweinsteiger, Pranjic - Robben, Mueller, Ribery - Gomez
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