Borussia Dortmund have been flying high in 2018-19, losing just one Bundesliga match so far this season. Their impressive form under Lucien Favre has set up an intriguing battle for the title, especially given Bayern Munich’s six season title-winning streak. Niko Kovac’s Bayern Munich have had a roller coaster of a campaign so far, but in recent months they’ve found all the right notes again and are now unbeaten in 9 matches across all competitions. Although no Bayern Munich player has lived up to the hype and expectation in 2018-19, they’ve maintained a positive run of form and have kept within touching distance of the league leaders throughout. Just six points separates Bayern from Borussia Dortmund right now and with Dortmund’s star man Marco Reus sidelined for two weeks due to an injury, now is the time for Die Roten to close the gap. However, the quest for Bayern to catch Dortmund might not be so easy.
Bayern’s main problem lies not only in how good Borussia Dortmund have been this season, but how mediocre Kovac’s side have been this season. On form, every single one of BVB’s starting 11 in every position has been stronger than every player in Bayern’s starting 11. From goalkeeper to striker, Bayern’s players have not lived up to the hype, while Dortmund’s have all surpassed expectations.
Lukasz Piszczek has been magnificent and is enjoying his best season since a hip injury back in 2013. Instead of coming into the twilight of his career, he’s hit top form again and has been instrumental to Favre’s success and a back-line that has conceded just 18 goals in 18 games. Young players like Jadon Sancho, Jacob Bruun Larsen and Achraf Hakimi have all achieved wonders this season and have handled the pressure of playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world as though they were in their thirties. Roman Burki has been vastly improved from previous seasons and is enjoying his best ever season at the club; while Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney have formed the best two-some in all of German football. Meanwhile, the likes of Manuel Akanji, Marco Reus and Paco Alcacer hardly need an introduction for the performances they’ve put together this season and their tremendous contributions to Dortmund’s rise. Reus and Alcacer in particular were critical to Dortmund’s 3-2 win over Bayern the last time the two sides met in Bundesliga play. Kovac’s side dominated for large portions of that match but were simply outplayed in the second half by BVB, especially on the counter-attack where the two aforementioned players were absolutely clinical.
Everywhere you look the Borussia Dortmund players have been superior to Bayern’s in 2018-19. But the issue now becomes about Dortmund’s ability to maintain that same level and to a similar extent, Bayern’s ability to improve.
Although Bayern’s players have been largely inferior to Dortmund’s this season, on paper the only BVB stars that would walk into Kovac’s starting 11 are Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho. Bayern Munich simply have better players – players who are more decorated and experienced in the art of winning titles, and also more capable at creating something out of nothing. That isn’t to say that Borussia Dortmund don’t have that in their lineup. They do, and in fact they have it in abundance. But Bayern, on paper, simply have more. Robert Lewandowski is still the best forward not only in the Bundesliga but some might argue – the world. In the eyes of many Joshua Kimmich is the best right-back there is, while it’s hard to argue against the ability of players like Mats Hummels, Thomas Muller and Manuel Neuer – even if their performances have declined in recent years. Also worth noting is that the likes of Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry have stepped it up this season, showing what the new generation of Bayern players could be ready to produce for the next decade to come.
Bayern absolutely have it within their reach to catch Borussia Dortmund, which puts all the pressure on Favre’s men to continue to perform to the highest level game after game. The Black and Yellows cannot afford to take their foot off the gas for even a second, because if they do, the likes of Lewandowski and Muller will punish them.
But for now, it’s Lucien Favre’s Borussia Dortmund who remain top of the table by six points. The two teams will play in what could be a title-deciding match on April 6th, 2018. Regardless of what happens, this season will always be remembered as something special for Borussia Dortmund fans. But the fans still want more. Dortmund’s fan-base have been craving a Bundesliga title for years and now it is certainly theirs for the taking. It’s just a question now of whether or not they can navigate the tough road ahead and keep Bayern Munich at bay. As we enter the second half of the season, the Bundesliga is in for its most intriguing title race in the last decade. Who will win – Borussia Dortmund or Bayern Munich? Only time will tell.
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