Bayern rout Hanover to go 19 points clear
European champions Bayern Munich opened a 19-point gap in the Bundesliga on Sunday with a 4-0 victory at Hanover 96 -- their 20th win from 22 league matches.
Bayern coach Pep Guardiola had described the Bundesliga as "pizzas and hamburgers" compared to the "gourmet" of the Champions League in the wake of last Wednesday's 2-0 win at Arsenal in Europe.
Their main domestic rivals did little to disprove Guardiola's point as Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke picked up just a point between them over the weekend.
"It took a while for the players to find their rhythm, but we played well after the first goal," said Guardiola.
"We had the opportunity to extend our lead and the boys took it."
The Bavarian giants extended their record unbeaten run to 47 Bundesliga matches, dating back to October 2012, to strengthen their iron grip on what will be their 24th German league title, baring a miracle.
Having won last season's league title with a record six games to spare, Bayern are on course to break their own best mark.
Hanover offered little resistance as Germany winger Thomas Mueller scored twice while attacking midfielder Thiago Alcantara and Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic also netted.
There was more good news for both Bayern and Germany as Bastian Schweinsteiger made his first start since November after an ankle, then knee injury, to partner captain Philipp Lahm in the defensive midfield.
"It was good to start and have no problems, I feel good, even in terms of fitness," said Schweinsteiger.
"I still need to get into my rhythm and need some more match practice to get top fit. I just hope things stay positive for me."
Brazil's Rafinha, who took over from Lahm at right-back, strengthened his case for a Selecao place at June's World Cup with two crosses which both led to goals.
- Schweinsteiger returns -
Mueller set Bayern on the way to their 14th consecutive league win when he headed home Rafinha's cross with 25 minutes gone.
Thiago then chested down Schweinsteiger's superb pass and fired home to make it 2-0 after 34 minutes.
Mueller profited from a Mandzukic pass to get behind the Hanover defence and score his second on 59 minutes, while Mandzukic then headed home Rafinha's cross for Bayern's fourth, seven minutes later.
On Saturday, Borussia Dortmund suffered a shock 3-0 league defeat at strugglers Hamburg ahead of Tuesday's Champions League last-16 clash at Zenit St Petersburg.
Hamburg recorded their first league win since November in Mirko Slomka's first match in charge as his side broke their eight-match losing streak, including a club record seven league matches.
The result sees Hamburg remain among the relegation places, but move up to 16th, while Dortmund stay third.
There was more bad news for Jurgen Klopp on Sunday as defensive midfielder Sven Bender was ruled out for the next 10 weeks with an inflamed pelvis.
Second-placed Bayer Leverkusen went down 3-1 at VfL Wolfsburg as Sami Hyypia's side lost for the seventh time in their last nine games.
Leverkusen suffered a Champions League hangover, following their 4-0 last-16, first-leg home defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, with another poor display.
Braunschweig are now three points adrift at the bottom after their 2-1 defeat at ten-man Nuremberg in a match where three penalties were saved.
Borussia Moenchengladbach stay sixth, but are winless in their last seven games after their 2-2 draw at home to Hoffenheim.
Augsburg got back to winning ways with a 4-2 victory at Freiburg to bounce back from last weekend's defeat to Nuremberg, their only loss in the last eight games.
VfB Stuttgart are just above the bottom three after they suffered their seventh straight defeat at home to Hertha Berlin, who ran out 2-1 winners.
Hertha's replacement striker Sandro Wagner headed the winner, three minutes from time, but was then sent off for a second yellow card having only been on the pitch for 12 minutes.
Fourth-placed Schalke, who host Real Madrid in Wednesday's Champions League last-16, first-leg clash, stayed fourth after their goalless draw at home to Mainz 05 on Friday.