Bayern Munich travel to Rhineland-Palatinate on Saturday to face Mainz in a Bundesliga clash at the Opel Arena in which the champions will be looking to continue the rebuild from their tumultuous start to the campaign.
A difficult run of results saw the Bavarians slip off the pace in their bid to defend their domestic crown with the usual authority and dominance which is generally expected of any Bayern side.
As a result, Niko Kovac has come under increasing pressure within the club and from the broader spectrum of German media which forced the club’s hierarchy to call a recent press conference in which Bayern chief Karl-Heinz Rummenigge launched a strong defence of his players.
Recent wins over Wolfsburg last time out in the Bundesliga and a midweek Champions League win over AEK Athens have begun to steady the ship ahead of this weekend’s trip to Mainz, but Niko Kovac will be aware that the pressure is still very much on his side.
Bayern head into the match on Saturday in fourth place, four points adrift of league leaders Borussia Dortmund. With the leaders facing a tough match on the same day against the high-flying Hertha Berlin, Bayern will be well aware of the importance of three points on Saturday.
How to Watch
When is Kick Off?
Saturday 27th October
What Time is Kick Off?
Where is it Played?
TV Channel/Live Stream?
BT Sport 2 HD (Highlights)
Bayern Munich 1-2 Mainz (02/03/2016)
With Bayern very much against it and battling the tide in their bid to defend their Bundesliga crown this term, the Bavarians may want to banish any memories of Mainz’s shock win at the Allianz Arena in March 2016, in which Saturday’s opponents shocked Bayern.
Pep Guardiola’s Bayern team were on an unbeaten run which stretched over three months before an unfancied Mainz side arrived in Munich to stun the German giants on home soil.
Jairo Samperio silenced the home crowd as the Mainz man thumped his side into a 26th minute lead, before Arjen Robben stepped up in trademark fashion to hammer a typically unstoppable left footed drive in for Bayern’s equaliser.
Late drama ensued, however, as the home side’s lacklustre performance was punished when Jhon Cordoba struck a shock winner for the visitors on the 86th minute to hand Mainz an unlikely win over Guardiola’s men.
Stefan Bell vs. Robert Lewandowski
Just as Bayern appeared to be on the brink of collapse, up stepped their famed marksman Robert Lewandowski in their previous two matches to haul his side back to winning ways.
The iconic Polish striker struck a decisive brace as Bayern beat Wolfsburg 3-1 last time out in the league to help his side end a run of three Bundesliga matches without a win, before stepping up to convert another important strike in the 2-0 win over AEK Athens in midweek.
Lewandowski is a frightful prospect for any opposition defence to face when he is in form, and three goals from his last two games suggests that the 30-year-old is set to be a real handful for the Mainz rear-guard on Saturday.
As captain and the leader of the home side’s defence, Stefan Bell must step up for his side and seek to shackle Lewandowski’s impact on Saturday’s match. The Pole thrives on space to turn and shoot in and around the box, and Bell must be on hand to restrict the forward.
Mainz’s hopes for a successful outing on Saturday against a troubled Bayern side are somewhat hampered by the absences of a number of first team players. Veteran goalkeeper Rene Adler remains sidelined with a knee injury, whilst winger Gerrit Holtman is out with a foot problem.
Elsewhere, defender Niko Bungert is struggling with calf problems, whilst striker Emil Berggreen continues to recover from a muscle fibre tear and Ridle Baku remains out, as the midfielder continues to nurse a ligament tear. In a further blow, midfielder Danny Latza is suspended for Mainz.
Bayern, meanwhile, are not without selection problems of their own. Kovac’s plans are particularly hampered in the wide areas, with Kingsley Coman a long-term absentee with a ligament tear.
Adding further to Bayern’s lack of options on the wings, Arjen Robben is suspended following his red card received last time out in the league away to Wolfsburg. Corentin Tolisso also continues to miss out, with the midfielder still nursing a cruciate ligament rupture.
Muller; Brosinski, Bell, Niakhate, Caricol; Gbamin, Kunde, Boetius; Burkardt, Mateta, Quaison.
Neuer; Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels, Alaba; Martinez, Muller, Goretzka, Thiago, Rodriguez; Lewandowski.
Though Bayern’s tough start to the season has left the champions with a lot to do, their recent return to winning ways suggests that Kovac’s side are on the up.
A poor run of form had previously threatened to destabilise their season, but Bayern’s quality and stature as a top side remains unquestionable, and Kovac’s side should continue to display the resolve of champions this weekend following a difficult period.
Though Bayern have a shortage of wide options which could limit their attacking threat on Saturday, there is still an abundance of quality in the side, led by the imperious Lewandowski, which is more than enough to suggest that Kovac’s side should seal the win over Mainz.
Prediction: Mainz 0-3 Bayern Munich