Victory for champions Bayern Munich in a game against visitors Mainz 05 would have been a foregone conclusion in any other season in the past decade but not this year.
Mainz, under Danish coach Bo Svensson, are having their best season in 11 years, having lost one of their last six Bundesliga matches.
Champions League club VfL Wolfsburg found out last week how deadly Mainz can be in attack these days, conceding two goals in the opening four minutes to lose 3-0.
Mainz are currently in seventh place on 21 points thanks to their hard-working backline — the league’s second best.
When Mainz lose possession Svensson’s players hustle their opponents and stifle any chance of a quick break, while in attack they have the most in-form German striker in 21-year-old Jonathan Burkardt, who has netted 10 times in all competitions this season, including seven goals in the Bundesliga.
Burkardt has averaged a goal every two games this season. The young forward has also had a total of 30 shots on goal, the second most in the Bundesliga, and scored against Wolfsburg.
Getting something out of their trip to Munich is not beyond Mainz’s expectations these days.
“If we continue playing this type of Mainz 05 football all the way to Christmas then we will be happy when sitting under the Christmas tree,” said Burkardt.
But they will have to hit top form and hope the hosts have a bad day.
Bayern are on a high following last week’s 3-2 league win at second-placed Borussia Dortmund that opened a four-point gap at the top.
They followed that up with a 3-0 victory over Barcelona on Wednesday to complete a perfect Champions League group stage with six wins from six games.
Coach Julian Nagelsmann has midfielder Joshua Kimmich back in training after he tested negative for Covid-19 following his infection and quarantine earlier this month.
Dortmund have their backs to the wall following last week’s loss to the champions.
They must now win Saturday’s Ruhr valley mini-derby at VfL Bochum if they are to stay in touch with the leaders.
Bayer Leverkusen, a further three points back in third place, will be hoping for a Dortmund slip-up before they visit Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday.