Bayern Munich could secure the Bundesliga title this weekend – but they will have to beat Mainz to stand a chance of doing so.
Pep Guardiola’s men hold a staggering 23-point lead at the top of the table with just nine games remaining, meaning it is almost certainly a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ they will be crowned champions.
And it could be this weekend that Bayern confirm the successful defence of the title they won back from Borussia Dortmund last season.
A victory against Champions League hopefuls Mainz will see Guardiola lift the trophy in his debut season at the Allianz Arena, as long as Dortmund and Schalke fail to win their games.
But with Jens Keller’s men hosting bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig and Dortmund travelling to mid-table Hannover, even a win this weekend may not be enough to celebrate another championship triumph just yet.
Last Saturday’s 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen saw Bayern extend their unbeaten league run to 50 games, while the last side to defeat Guardiola’s charges in any competition were Manchester City in the Champions League on December 10 – which was 15 matches ago.
Bayern were given a further lift on Wednesday when winger Arjen Robben signed a contract extension that will keep him at the club until 2017.
The visitors can expect a tricky test against a Mainz side sitting fifth in the table and still in with a shout of a top-two finish.
Thomas Tuchel’s charges have lost just once in their past 11 Bundesliga outings and have not tasted defeat at the Coface Arena since a 3-1 reverse to Dortmund back in November.
The coach was in philosophical mood as his side prepare to take on a Bayern outfit who have won 17 Bundesliga matches in a row.
“If the little one wants to beat the great, then he does not do well in the classroom of the great, he lures him into a dark corner,” he told the club’s official website.
“We want to provide them with tasks. If they solve them, then we go over there and congratulate. Then nobody will be ashamed of us.”
Mainz have conceded just once on home turf in the past four games but have struggled for goals all season – their tally of 37 is only the 11th best in the division, and just half of the total achieved by Bayern.
Cameroon international Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has been in impressive form of late, though, scoring four times in his past five appearances, and Bayern will need to be mindful of his threat if they are to kick off their title celebrations.
The hosts will be hoping for a change in fortunes from the reverse fixture in October, when Mainz led at the break through Shawn Parker, only for Bayern to roar back in the second half and eventually run out 4-1 winners.