Mandzukic becomes a casualty of Bayern's perfectionism
Bayern Munich can go 13 points clear in the Bundesliga with a win at VfB Stuttgart on Wednesday, but the treatment of top-scorer Mario Mandzukic highlights their dedication to perfection.
Pep Guardiola's Bayern can further tighten their grip on a 24th German title at Stuttgart and are unbeaten in 27 away matches in the Bundesliga.
The title is theirs to lose after the four teams chasing them in the league earned a total of just one point over the weekend.
But Mandzukic found himself superfluous to requirements in Friday's 2-0 win at Borussia Moenchengladbach -- even as top scorer with ten goals this season.
The Croatian striker was a key factor in Bayern winning the treble of European, league and cup titles last season, but reputations count for little under Guardiola.
Mandzukic was barely missed in Gladbach as Bayern picked up their 15th win from 17 league matches to extend their record unbeaten run to 42 Bundesliga matches
"He hasn't been training as we know he can, he needs to step on the gas again," explained Bayern's director of sport Matthias Sammer.
In his absence, namesake Mario Goetze was moved up from midfield as the lone striker and scored Bayern's first goal in an impressive display.
Guardiola opted to take a trio of untested teenagers Ylli Sallahi, Mitchell Weiser and Pierre Emile Hojbjerg to Gladbach instead of Mandzukic.
The Croatia star took his frustrations out on the ball with six goals in Saturday's training match back in Munich.
No doubt the news Poland striker Robert Lewandowski will be joining Bayern next season has hardly gone down well with Mandzukic.
Sammer insisted it was neither a factor in him being left out of the match squad at Gladbach, nor are Bayern considering selling him.
"I didn't get the impression that it has something to do with it," he said.
"Everything else, which would be speculated, is wrong.
"We need him and we're happy to have him."
Germany winger Thomas Mueller said the players know they must give only their best performances -- whether in training or in matches -- under Guardiola's stewardship.
"You have to see for yourself that you have to always give your best for the team," said Mueller, who netted Bayern's second-half penalty in Gladbach.
"If you do that, you'll have no troubles.
"The coach will have his reasons for the team he chooses."
Mandzukic's treatment might just be a psychological trick to motivate a seasoned performer.
"The heart is more important than anything else, if it's missing then you sometimes have to give it a nudge to start again," said Sammer.
It remains to be seen whether Mandzukic returns for the game with Stuttgart, who are down to 12th in the table after Saturday's 2-1 defeat at home to Mainz.
France winger Franck Ribery is expected to return from a leg knock and said Bayern want three more points from the re-arranged match to further dispirit their rivals.