For the first time in seven seasons, Bayern Munich is facing competition for Bundesliga honors.
Bayern have paraded toward their six consecutive league titles with an average gap of 16.3 points on the next-best team.
However, the Bavarian behemoths find themselves two points back of Borussia Dortmund ahead of Saturday's 100th Der Klassiker clash. With RB Leipzig sitting nine points back of the leaders, the 2018-19 campaign is shaping up to be a two-horse race between Germany's heavyweights.
A return from the international break saw Niko Kovac's charges drop points at Freiburg while Dortmund snatched a victory against Wolfsburg thanks to Paco Alcacer's added-time brace.
Both Bayern and Dortmund have seven league matches remaining, though the latter hold the slight advantage of not having to worry about the DFB-Pokal further congesting their schedule. Lucien Favre's squad was eliminated in the Round of 16 by Werder Bremen, while Bayern could play twice more after bouncing second-tier Heidenheim on Wednesday in a nine-goal thriller. The draw for the semifinals takes place on Apr. 7.
In terms of potential tiebreakers should the two sides finish level on points, Bayern currently hold a goal differential of +41 to Dortmund's +36, while the second tiebreaker, goals scored, marginally favors the six-time holders, 69 to 66. If those can't separate the teams, Dortmund provisionally own the head-to-head advantage after beating Bayern 3-2 at the Westfalenstadion in November.
Fans of the Marco Reus-Robert Lewandowski bromance, or anyone who wants to see some late-season drama for a change, make sure to circle April 6 on your calendars.
|Borussia Dortmund (H)||League||April 6|
|Fortuna Dusseldorf (A)||League||April 14|
|Werder Bremen (H)||League||April 20|
|Nuernberg (A)||League||April 28|
|Hannover (H)||League||May 5|
|RB Leipzig (A)||League||May 11|
|Eintracht Frankfurt (H)||League||May 18|
There's a mixed bag of home fixtures for Nico Kovac and Co. Dortmund's visit will, naturally, have the biggest influence on the run-in, but it would be daft to take Bremen lightly despite Bayern's run of nine consecutive league wins in Bavaria against Die Werderaner. Then there's Hannover, who have yet to win away from home, pairing four draws with nine defeats, and Eintracht Frankfurt, this season's shock side, who may very well be fighting for one of the two final Champions League spots.
Bayern boast the league's best road record, and again, their last four opponents away from the Allianz cover the spectrum of challenges. Bayern's penultimate match at Leipzig is rife with continental implications as the third-placed Saxons look to return to the Champions League in 2019-20 to coincide with Julian Nagelsmann's arrival on the sidelines. On paper, Bayern's opponents pose less of a threat, though odds are they'll play at least two more matches than Dortmund. Apologies to the countless number of Heidenheim supporters
not reading this.
|Bayern Munich (A)||League||April 6|
|Mainz (H)||League||April 13|
|Freiburg (A)||League||April 21|
|Schalke (H)||League||April 27|
|Werder Bremen (A)||League||May 4|
|Fortuna Dusseldorf (H)||League||May 11|
|Monchengladbach (A)||League||May 18|
After the visit from Wolfsburg saw Dortmund reclaim top spot, the remaining home matches all come against clubs in the lower half of the table. Favre will want to avoid replicating December's trip to Fortuna Dusseldorf in which Dortmund shockingly dropped their first league result of the season, 2-1.
Dortmund's trips away from the Westfalenstadion aren't as unambiguous, and with three defeats in their last seven road contests in all competitions, it's a reason for concern. Freiburg have registered 20 points at home this season, just five fewer than Dortmund have accrued on the road, and Bremen have not lost a home league fixture since the first week of December. The finale at Monchengladbach may appear daunting considering Die Fohlen's third-best home standing in Germany, but their recent form has been dire, losing three and drawing one in their last four at Borussia-Park, getting outscored 12-2 over that spell.
Bayern have tasted defeat in just one of their last 11 matches in all competitions, a 3-1 Champions League dismissal at home to Liverpool. Their last result, a 5-4 win over second-tier Heidenheim in the DFB-Pokal, was hardly convincing, and it wasn't like Kovac opted for a reserve side, with Rafinha and Sven Ulreich the only players in the XI with fewer than 10 league starts this season. It didn't help that Niklas Sule was sent off inside of 15 minutes.
Dortmund have won three on the spin in the Bundesliga, but that mini-stretch came after a run of one victory in seven outings in all competitions. Four goals after the 90th minute in the last three matches have boosted Dortmund's cause. Better late than never.
If other points of comparison seem even Steven, this one heavily favors the Bundesliga holders. Netminder Manuel Neuer's status is uncertain as he nurses a thumb worry, and David Alaba was a precautionary omission from Wednesday's squad with a knock.
Dortmund, on the other hand, are faced with a slew of ailments, especially at right-back where both Lukasz Piszczek (heel) and Achraf Hakimi (broken foot) are set to miss out. Center-back Abdou Diallo is hampered by back issues, and in attack, both Christian Pulisic (thigh) and Maximilian Philipp (knee) are out.
Now that the decisive details have been discussed ahead of Saturday's critical Der Klassiker at the Allianz Arena, who will win the 2018-19 Bundesliga title, Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund? Vote below!