March madness as Bayern on verge of record triumph
Bayern Munich could be crowned German league champions in record time on Saturday if they win at Mainz 05.
Pep Guardiola's Bayern hold an enormous 23-point lead and victory would given them the title providing rivals Borussia Dortmund fail to win at Hanover and Schalke do not beat bottom side Eintracht Braunschweig at home.
Should Bayern wrap up a 24th German league title at Mainz, they will do so with eight games to spare, breaking their own record of six, set last season.
No side has ever been crowned German champions in March and Bayern are bidding to become the first team to go through an entire Bundesliga campaign unbeaten.
Mainz, who are on their own five-match unbeaten run, have risen to fifth in the table and are challenging for a Champions League place next season.
But the Rhineland club are all too aware of the enormous task facing them against the European champions.
"Perhaps the club who finally break Bayern Munich's unbeaten run should be given an extra cup to mark the achievement. That's what we're trying to win on Saturday," said Mainz manager Christian Heidel.
Bayern will be at near full strength, while Mainz are waiting on the fitness of Cameroon striker Eric Choupo-Moting who has had a stomach infection.
"We need to be brave and believe in a sensational win against Bayern Munich," said Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel.
Should Bayern claim the title, any celebrations will be muted with the Bavarian giants in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and determined to defend their title.
"(Any party) wouldn't last long, we still have too many games ahead of us," said Bayern's Dutch winger Arjen Robben.
"We have a game every two or three days coming up and the focus is on the Champions League."
- 'We will be champions' -
Even if Bayern's bid is foiled this weekend, they can still claim the title at Hertha Berlin on Tuesday.
"We will be champions, but exactly when is secondary," said Bayern's attacking midfielder Toni Kroos.
Dortmund travel to Hanover 96 on Saturday without Germany left-back Marcel Schmelzer, who has a torn muscle in his pelvis, to add to their latest injury woes.
The 26-year-old suffered the injury in the later stages of Dortmund's 2-1 defeat at home to Zenit St Petersburg on Wednesday in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Dortmund still reached the quarter-finals with a 5-4 win on aggregate having won the first-leg in Russia 4-2 three weeks ago.
Schmelzer's misfortune is the latest in a string of ailments to befall Dortmund, who are already without long-term knee injury-victims centre-back Neven Subotic and winger Jakub Blaszczykowski.
Despite last Saturday's 2-1 defeat at home to Moenchengladbach, Dortmund are second in the table and are hoping to welcome back Germany winger Marco Reus, who has missed their recent games with a leg injury.
Schalke 04 host Braunschweig without captain Benedikt Hoewedes, who has torn his left groin and becomes the ninth Royal Blues' player on the injury list.
This is the third injury of the season for the 26-year-old Germany centre-back, who suffered the tear in Tuesday's 3-1 defeat at Real Madrid in the Champions League.
Third-placed Schalke are just a point behind Dortmund, who they meet in Tuesday's Ruhr derby at Borussia's Westfalenstadion.
Playing Friday (All times 1430 GMT unless stated)
Freiburg v Werder Bremen (1930)
Schalke 04 v Eintracht Braunschweig, VfB Stuttgart v Hamburg, Hanover 96 v Borussia Dortmund, VfL Wolfsburg v Augsburg, Mainz 05 v Bayern Munich, Borussia Moenchengladbach v Hertha Berlin (1730)
Nuremberg v Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer Leverkusen v Hoffenheim (1630)
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