Adam Grimshaw –
There have been a number of shaky moments this season where it looked like Borussia Dortmund’s title hopes had slipped from their grasp and the race had turned into Bayern München’s favour. Following a weekend where both contenders failed to win their matches, it looks like the Bundesliga could be set up for a nail-biting finish after all.
Dortmund were left dumbfounded by the time the final whistle blew at the Westfalenstadion on Saturday afternoon. Having gone down 2-4 to bitter rivals and relegation battling Schalke, it finally looked like the dream was over.
Bayern journeyed north to meet 1.FC Nürnberg with the chance to put some space between themselves and their Ruhr rivals. However, thanks to a 47th-minute strike from Matheus Pereira Bayern dropped two points granting Dortmund a precious lifeline.
The stats don’t lie
After a long and gruelling battle, Bayern have emerged as favourites, and it’s no wonder why. The stats themselves demonstrate how the Bavarians are the attacking force in the Bundesliga this season.
Bayern top the league’s attacking stats records. Not only do they have a superior goal difference to their yellow and black rivals, but their chance creation is also considered healthier.
Bayern have registered the most shots on goal out of any club in the league so far, racking up 574 across the season. Hoffenheim trail some way in second place with thirty less, while Dortmund dawdle in ninth position.
It’s not just right in front of goal where they’re doing the most damage either. Bayern’s stats in the lead up to the danger areas show just how dominant they can be. They have completed the most successful passes and crosses from open play in the league to date.
Dortmund lack the nerve
When it comes down to it, and for all Bayern’s authority in the final third, the title was ultimately Dortmund’s to lose.
Their capitulation against rivals Schalke in the Revierderby at the weekend was symptomatic of their season as a whole. Just like their league campaign they took an early lead, failed to capitalise while they were ahead, and bottled it.
Lucien Favre’s latest encapsulation of Die Schwarzgelben were earning rave reviews in the first half of the season. It wasn’t just the 15 game unbeaten run lasting until mid-December. It wasn’t just seeing off Bayern 3-2 in their first battle of the season. It was everything from Jadon Sancho lighting up the Bundesliga to the scintillating football the team were playing as a whole.
Unfortunately for Favre and Dortmund, what their season will be remembered for if they don’t win the title will be how they let a seven-point lead over Bayern München disappear into thin air.
Bayern – Experience is a virtue
Since coming back from the winter break, Bayern have turned the heat up on the title race. Nico Kovac’s side struggled to get started in the first half of the season, and it looked like the former Bayern midfielder was for the chopping block.
Since February though Bayern have been undefeated in the league and are looking much more like their old selves. Having only dropped points in draws away to Freiburg and Nürnberg they’ve managed to retake the top spot.
Inflicting a 5-0 defeat over their title rivals in early April had both a tangible and psychological impact on the race for the Bundesliga crown.
Unlike Dortmund, Bayern have a squad brimming with honours. The likes of Neuer, Hummels, Müller, and Lewandowski have formed the bedrock of recent Bayern Munich sides that have dominated German football.
Now that experience is kicking in, and it’s unlikely Bayern will yield even despite this most recent hiccup on the road to Nürnberg last weekend.
It’s been so long since there was a genuine title race that for Bayern to storm home with it over these final three fixtures will feel almost like a disservice. However, history has shown us that when they do take the lead in the league, they do not relinquish.
Bayern have arguably the more difficult set of fixtures, but will be looking to take maximum points with no Champions League distractions this season. They still have to face two of the top four with a trip to RB Leipzig and a visit from Eintracht Frankfurt on the cards.
Leipzig have secured a place in the Champions League with a third-place finish and that fixture will most likely be a dress rehearsal for the DFB Pokal Final at the end of May.
Depending on how Frankfurt perform in the Europa League with semi-final clashes against Chelsea and the potential of European silverware a distinctive possibility, will seek to determine how much they put into their final day visit to the Allianz Arena.
Dortmund’s recent form over March and April has been mixed, and midtable stragglers Werder Bremen and Fortuna Düsseldorf could be a tricky proposition, not to mention Borussia Mönchengladbach who are still trying to fulfil Champions League ambitions.
It’s all to play for, but it’s hard to imagine Bayern bottling just now at the last gasp.
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You can follow Adam Grimshaw on Twitter @adamgeorgie