Berlin: Bayern Munich went 23 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga on Saturday with a 6-1 thrashing of Wolfsburg to record a 16th consecutive win and 49th match without defeat. With just 10 games left in the campaign, the European champions are virtually assured of defending their title after a sixth successive win over the 2009 champions.
Victory was also the perfect tonic ahead of Tuesday's Champions League last-16 tie against Arsenal, where they will defend a 2-0 first leg lead. Naldo gave Wolfsburg a shock 17th-minute lead before Bayern, heading for a 24th national title, turned on the style.
Pep Guardiola's side scored five times in 20 second-half minutes on Saturday and they have now hit 30 goals in eight games since the Bundesliga resumed after the winter break. They have also scored 72 times since the start of the season with just 11 conceded.
"We weren't as dominant as in recent matches," said Guardiola. "Wolfsburg were very well organised and very aggressive. They caused us a lot of problems in the first half and at the start of the second.
"But at the end of the day it was us who scored the goals we needed."
Wolfsburg's lead lasted just 10 minutes before Xherdan Shaqiri levelled. Thomas Mueller and former Wolfsburg striker Mario Mandzukic both scored twice in the second half. Mandzukic now has 16 league goals for the season while Franck Ribery added to the scoreline to mark his return to action after a month out through injury.
"I think we were outstanding for 65 minutes. We had Bayern reeling," said Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking.
"But after they made it 3-1 it was as if we suffered a power cut. All our passion and determined running was gone. My players suddenly realised just how superior our opponents were."
Borussia Dortmund can cut the gap to Bayern back to 20 points with victory at Freiburg on Sunday. Bayer Leverkusen are third after a 1-1 draw at Hanover in a game where their goalkeeper Bernd Leno saved a Szabolcs Huszti penalty.
Sami Hyppia's Leverkusen's next mission is Wednesday's clash with Paris Saint-Germain where they will have try and overturn a 4-0 deficit from their Champions League last-16 tie.
Schalke 04 are in fourth place, also with 44 points, after seeing off Hoffenheim 4-0 with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar hitting a hat-trick. It was a welcome result for Schalke who had been routed 6-1 by Real Madrid and 5-1 at Bayern in their last two outings. Huntelaar could have had four goals but missed a 31st-minute penalty with a lazy attempt at goal.
In Saturday's late game, Werder Bremen boosted their top-flight survival hopes with a 2-0 win at Nuremberg. A second successive win for Robin Dutt's team allowed them to climb two places into 11th and eight points off the relegation zone.