Mats Hummels, James Rodriguez lead Bayern to victory vs. Mainz
First-half goals from Franck Ribery and James Rodriguez paved the way for a routine 2-0 success over struggling Mainz as the champions-in-waiting cruised 18 points clear, racking up a 10th straight win in all competitions.
A sixth consecutive Bundesliga title is only a matter of time given Saturday's victory, which extends their advantage to 18 points over "nearest challengers" Leverkusen on the back of a clean sheet, after conceding two goals in in two successive games.
Mainz were only denied a deserved goal in the second half by the brilliance of Sven Ulreich, while Jupp Heynckes rued a host of missed chances to score four or five goals. This is just splitting hairs.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Thanks to racking up 19 wins in 20 games since taking charge (if you include the penalty shoot-out success in Leipzig), Bayern can now bask in a mighty 18-point lead. It's remarkable considering that they trailed Borussia Dortmund by five points when the 72-year-old took over in October. Bayern are desperate for Heynckes to stay but "Don Jupp" called Uli Hoeness' latest charm offensive "a waste of time and effort" on Friday.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Sven Ulreich, 8 -- Hardly tested in the opening period but produced a string of fine saves in the second half to keep a clean sheet.
DF Rafinha, 6 -- Replaced Joshua Kimmich at right-back and turned in a normal, no-frills performance.
DF Jerome Boateng, 7 -- Although he picked up a yellow card for a clumsy foul on Danny Latza on his 150th Bundesliga outing for Bayern, the reliable World Cup-winning partnership of Boateng and Hummels is Bayern's number one option in central defence.
DF Mats Hummels, 9 -- Replaced Sule for his first game since Dec. 16 in Stuttgart. It was as if Hummels had never been away, winning a team-high 76 percent of challenges, oozing class and composure from every pore and even clearing off the line when Ulreich was finally beaten in the second half.
DF Juan Bernat, 6 -- Some impressive attacking thrusts in the first half down the left-hand side but doesn't exude confidence when asked to defend.
MF Sebastian Rudy, 5 -- Failed to capitalise on a second straight start and, following a first half yellow card, hooked on 70 minutes.
MF Corentin Tolisso, 6 -- Bayern's record signing found James unmarked at the back post for the second goal in an otherwise unremarkable performance.
MF James Rodriguez, 8 -- Bayern's signing of the season settled the game as a contest with a tremendous first-time finish and continues to catch the eye with another powerful display.
MF Franck Ribery, 7 -- Bayern's longest-serving player broke the deadlock with a crisp strike from the edge of the box just after the half-hour mark. A chance for a second goal went begging after taking the ball around the keeper but out of play. Spent large spells of the game on the fringes and could see his place under threat by Kingsley Coman in the more important Cup tie in Paderborn on Tuesday.
MF Thomas Muller, 6 -- Toiled and was industrious but missed a good chance early in the second half, poking agonisingly wide when clean through.
FW Sandro Wagner, 5 -- An entertaining but largely frustrating first start in over a decade in his second spell at the club. Booked for an umpteenth foul late in the first half but did manage to test Robin Zentner in the Mainz goal early in the second half. There's plenty of nuisance factor when Wagner is involved but little of Robert Lewandowski's finesse. "Wagner's Overture" was ended prematurely just after the hour mark as he was walking the red card tightrope after that first-half caution.
FW Robert Lewandowski, 6 -- Enjoyed a quiet afternoon as substitute. However, the game was all but done and dusted by the time he arrived on 63 minutes, replacing the disgruntled Wagner.
DF David Alaba, NR -- Came on for the disappointing Rudy on 70 minutes, again proving his versatility with a spell in central midfield.
MF Kingsley Coman, NR -- Some late minutes in Ribery's stead and the young Frenchman will probably start ahead of the elder statesman in midweek.
Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.