Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm believes Wednesday’s game at home to Mainz is the second part of a crucial trio of matches that can be decisive in their bid to retain the Bundesliga title.
Step one was Pep Guardiola’s men winning 2-0 at Wolfsburg last time out thanks to second-half goals from Kingsley Coman and Robert Lewandowski.
That triumph – which came after Bayern had surrendered a two-goal advantage in the Champions League against Juventus – ensured the leaders ended the weekend still eight points clear of nearest challengers Borussia Dortmund, who they meet on Saturday.
“After playing Juventus in the Champions League it was not an easy away game to play and it is a big week for us with games against Wolfsburg, Mainz and away to Dortmund,” said Lahm.
“We have got a decisive week coming up with a home fixture against Mainz and then Der Klassiker in Dortmund, so it was especially important to start with three points in Wolfsburg.
“I think it will be a decisive week in the title race. If we manage to win both of our next games then we can definitely talk about the championship, but we still have a long way to go.
“We have still got a few games after this week, but if we win our next two then it will be very difficult to catch us. But first we need to beat Mainz and Dortmund. We can take a huge step forward.
“We are not thinking about when we can win it – at the moment our aim is to travel to Dortmund with an eight-point lead. We want to win there, which would give us an 11-point advantage and that would be a key moment in deciding the championship race.”
Mainz come into the game on the back of a morale-boosting 3-1 home win over Bayer Leverkusen, a fourth victory in five games that has put them up to fifth in the table as they only sit behind Borussia Monchengladbach in the final Champions League spot on goal difference.
The visiting side have lost their last seven Bundesliga meetings with Bayern, though, and will go into the match as underdogs against a team who have won all 11 of their home league matches this season, scoring 37 goals and conceding just four.
Speaking after the Leverkusen victory, head coach Martin Schmidt said: “I am obviously happy to comment on a win as good as this one. We started well and were dangerous going from defence to attack.
“It was fun to see the team give everything they could. We are happy going into our regeneration and Bayern are waiting for us on Wednesday. It will be a big game.”
Defenders Holger Badstuber (ankle) and Jerome Boateng (adductor) will miss out, but Javi Martinez (knee) is nearing a return and Rafinha is back from suspension.
Key Mainz defebder Stefan Bell has missed the last two matches with a knee injury, while Danny Latza has been struggling with a thigh problem and striker Yoshinori Muto is battling a knee issue.
Key Opta Stats:
– Bayern Munich and Mainz have met in Munich 11 times in all competitions and Mainz have beaten Bayern on just one occasion.
– Bayern have inflicted more Bundesliga defeats on Mainz (14) and netted more top-flight goals against them (50) than any other side.
– Pep Guardiola has won all five of his league meetings against Mainz.
– Robert Lewandowski has scored nine goals in his last six Bundesliga appearances against Mainz.
– Against Bayer Leverkusen, Yunus Malli scored his second brace of the season (after a hat-trick v Hoffenheim on matchday five) and reached double digits in goals scored for the first time in his Bundesliga career (10).