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To the surprise of no one, Bayern Munich are the champions of Germany again. A 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund, their closest challengers who have never really been able to keep pace at the top of the table this season, saw Bayern move 12 points clear last weekend. With just three rounds of fixtures remaining, they can no longer be caught. But that does not mean the title race – or, more accurately, the absence of one – is no longer a talking point in the Bundesliga.
This is the Bavarian outfit’s 10th championship in a row. A Champions League quarter-final exit at the hands of Villarreal suggests that this is not a vintage Bayern side, yet they have nevertheless been able to win the league at a canter.
It was once possible to argue that the Bayern sides managed by Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola were among the very best in Europe, so it was only natural that they finished so far clear at the summit of the standings. That is no longer the case.
Bayern’s dominance of German soccer tends to be greeted by a shrug. Fans of other clubs argue that there is plenty of drama and excitement to be found elsewhere in the division, such as in the fight for the top four and in the battle to avoid relegation. Yet the title race is supposed to be the most gripping part of a season. Witness how engrossing the end of the campaign looks set to be in Serie A and the Premier League. By contrast, Bayern have in effect had the Bundesliga wrapped up for months.
A lack of competitiveness at the top of the division is bad for the German game. Next season will probably be even easier for Bayern. Dortmund will lose Erling Haaland, their star man, this summer. Bayern should improve in Nagelsmann’s second season at the helm. An 11th consecutive title beckons for the Bavarians.
Mainz have become part of the Bundesliga furniture. That is no mean feat for a club that had competed in the top flight for just three seasons before promotion in 2009.
Mainz have not been relegated since then and have regularly exceeded expectations, finishing in the top half of the table four times. They have a well-earned reputation for being smart and well run, with Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel both cutting their managerial teeth in Rhineland-Palatinate.
Last season was chaotic, though. Mainz went through three managers. Achim Beierlorzer lasted until late September before he was handed his P45. Jan-Moritz Lichte spent two months in interim charge, then Bo Svensson assumed control after the winter break. The Dane inherited a side deep in relegation trouble, but led them to a 12th-place finish.
To Svensson’s immense credit, Mainz have kicked on again this season. However, there have been signs of late that they are running out of steam. A five-match winless run has seen them drop into the bottom half of the table. Finishing 11th or 12th would still be a decent achievement, but Mainz will hope to turn things around in the final couple of weeks of the campaign.
It is a sign of how entrenched Bayern’s dominance of the Bundesliga is that their title triumphs are not celebrated with a great deal of enthusiasm these days. Lifting the trophy has become an annual tradition. It is true that Bayern have long been the strongest side in Germany, but their longest previous run of consecutive titles was three. Their monopolization of the title is a modern phenomenon.
Bayern’s preeminence affects the betting market too. Backing Bayern with a moneyline bet in the Bundesliga is rarely a smart choice since the odds are invariably stacked in their favor. It is necessary to dig deeper when making a selection for a game involving the 32-time champions.
In this case, we believe the handicap market offers excellent value. Bayern have won 16 matches by a two-goal margin or more this season. That is as many victories as RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen, who sit fourth and third in the standings respectively. A price of +150 on another win by two or more goals is attractive.
Nagelsmann and his players will be disappointed they have nothing else to play for this season, having suffered premature exits from the Champions League and the DFB-Pokal. That should not stop them easing to victory on Saturday, though.
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|Mainz vs Bayern Munich Information
|Mainz vs Bayern Munich
|MEWA Arena, Mainz, Germany
|Saturday, 30 April 2022, 9.30 AM EDT
|How to watch
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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