Mainz - FC Barcelona's former coach Pep Guardiola may not be taking the reins at FC Bayern Munich until the summer, but the Bundesliga leaders' performance against 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday suggested the Catalan class has already taken hold.
Keeping it real
A tantalising display, particularly after the break, provided more evidence that Bayern are ripe for a 22nd Bundesliga title.
"You just can’t play better football than the way we did in the second half," drooled Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. It was indeed a one-sided second 45 minutes at the Coface Arena, although captain did his best to ensure nobody - including the club's heirarchy - got too carried away.
"We’ve only played three games of the second half of the season," said the 29-year-old. "It’s just a momentary situation." Yet in spite of the Bayern and Germany captain's best efforts to play down his side's incredible feats, a run of 16 wins in 20 Bundesliga matches this season, with only seven goals conceded, tells its own story.
Neuer a spectator
That said, Jupp Heynckes' men didn't have it all their own way in Mainz, who have laid better claim than any to being the record German champions' bogey team in recent seasons. The hosts started confidently, disturbing Bayern’s usual flowing football through fast-paced pressing to keep them on the back foot.
Yet Heynckes’ troops kept chipping away and Mainz were rarely allowed close enough to trouble , who has now not been beaten for 340 minutes.
Once opened the scoring shortly before the break, there never looked to be a way back for Thomas Tuchel's men, especially after grabbed a brace to take him to the top of the goalscoring charts. “We’re doing what we did during the first half of the season, which is playing as a team,” said the Croatian afterwards. "The important thing is that we're always there for one another."
The forward was not over-exaggerating. Anyone who witnessed the interplay between , , Müller and Lahm for Bayern's third goal cannot fail to have been impressed.
"After Barcelona, Bayern are the best team in Europe," Toni Kroos told ZDF television late on Saturday evening. Much of Bayern's strength is down to their improved strength in depth, with big names such as Arjen Robben limited to the bench.
Robben was hardly a picture of joy after a 14-minute cameo late on, and coach Heynckes sympathised with the Dutchman: "I myself was a top striker and if the coach had told me that I’d not be playing even though I was fit, do you think I’d have been pleased?" Indeed, the veteran tactician believes Robben's reaction - hurrying from the pitch after the final whistle - was "the way it should be".
Christoph Ruf reporting from Mainz