Bayern Munich are unbeaten in 20 and sit top of the table but it’s far from business as usual… chinks in their armour have Leipzig, Jadon Sancho’s Dortmund and hipsters’ choice Union Berlin geared up for a title race
- Bayern Munich are currently two points clear of Leipzig at top of the Bundesliga
- Hansi Flick’s side are unbeaten in 20 matches across all competitions
- But unusually they have conceded first in their last eight Bundesliga fixtures
- Bayern will face a stern test when they travel to Borussia Monchengladbach
- It’s second versus fourth as Leipzig host Borussia Dortmund on Saturday
- And fifth takes on sixth as surprise package Union Berlin entertain Wolfsburg
Bayern Munich may well occupy their familiar position atop the Bundesliga but there’s no question that a proper title race is brewing.
There are more than enough signs to indicate that Hansi Flick’s reigning champions will not be running away with a ninth consecutive title in the months ahead and will be challenged by at least one of the chasing pack.
The picture may become a little bit clearer this weekend with Bayern set for a tricky assignment at Borussia Monchengladbach on Friday evening before a second-versus-fourth showdown between RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.
Bayern Munich fell two goals behind to Mainz last weekend before roaring back
The reigning Bundesliga champions rattled in five second-half goals once they’d woken up
The comeback win moved Bayern back to the top of the table, two points ahead of Leipzig
Just to further raise the temperature, the fixture list also features a meeting of fifth and sixth as surprise package Union Berlin host Wolfsburg.
Bayern’s rivals always hope and pray for chinks in their armour and, as perverse as it seems given last season’s Treble winners are unbeaten in their last 20 matches, there are definitely some to be found.
Last Sunday saw Bayern fall two goals behind at home to Mainz before they finally got their act together in the second half and rattled in five unanswered goals.
But it was the eighth Bundesliga game in a row that Bayern have conceded the first goal – a club record – and the first time since 1988 they came back from two goals down to win.
That it happened against Mainz, who are second bottom in the table and who recently overhauled their entire backroom staff, was all the more shocking.
Leroy Sane scored a lovely goal to level the scores at 2-2 as Bayern roared back to win 5-2
Robert Lewandowski increased his goal tally for the season to 22 with two of Bayern’s goals
Borussia Monchengladbach vs Bayern Munich (7.30pm UK time) BT Sport 3
2.30pm unless stated
Union Berlin vs Wolfsburg
Mainz vs Eintracht Frankfurt
Bayer Leverkusen vs Werder Bremen
BT Sport 3
Schalke vs Hoffenheim
Freiburg vs Cologne
RB Leipzig vs Borussia Dortmund (5.30pm) BT Sport 1
Augsburg vs Stuttgart (2.30pm)
Arminia Bielefeld vs Hertha Berlin (5pm)
Both BT Sport 2
Leroy Sane, who channelled Arjen Robben with a brilliant cut inside and curling shot to the bottom corner to make it 2-2, put it best afterwards: ‘At the moment, we always need a wake-up call to get to full throttle.’
Nobody would blame Bayern if they were feeling a bit knackered. After all, their 2019-20 campaign finished with the Champions League final on August 23 and 2020-21 began with an 8-0 thrashing of Schalke a mere 26 days later.
The pretenders to their crown all hoped that despite the lavish quality and depth of their squad, this quickfire turnaround would eventually catch up with them.
Maybe it still will but here we are in January and Bayern have lost just once all season and sit two points clear at the top. For good measure, they strolled through their Champions League group as well and will certainly fancy their chances against Lazio in the last-16.
Robert Lewandowski’s two goals against Mainz increased his formidable return to 22 in 17 games and not even the speculation about David Alaba’s exit can throw them off balance.
If anything, the fact Bayern have now claimed 18 points from losing positions this season only speaks of a mental fortitude their rivals really hoped has been eroded by last season’s sweeping success.
Leipzig, two points off top spot, undoubtedly look the best-equipped to run Bayern close.
Julian Nagelsmann’s team served notice of intent when they twice led in a 3-3 thriller at the Allianz Arena last month before Thomas Muller rescued the champions.
While Timo Werner suffers an almighty goal drought at Chelsea, his old club are finding ways of getting by without him.
More handsome wins earlier in the season have been replaced by slender victories of late although a good few chances – including an Emil Forsberg penalty – went begging in the 1-0 win at Stuttgart last week.
Dani Olmo scored an important winner for RB Leipzig as they edged out Stuttgart last week
Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann will be delighted with five consecutive clean sheets
Nagelsmann knows it’s an issue but his team can fall back on their resolute defending with the likes of Dayot Upamecano, Willi Orban and Marcel Halstenberg responsible for five straight clean sheets in league and cup.
With Werner gone, the goals are more thinly spread this season with on-loan Manchester City wing-back Angelino their surprise top scorer.
Chances will certainly have to be taken when they host Dortmund on Saturday with Edin Terzic’s team looking more like their old selves in last weekend’s 2-0 win over Wolfsburg.
Admittedly, they did make heavy going of it but three points marked an improvement on the final few games prior to Lucien Favre’s dismissal on December 13.
The Wolfsburg game ended with the bonus of Jadon Sancho scoring a long-overdue first Bundesliga goal of the season – a classic breakaway and assured finish – and Dortmund will hope the Englishman is fully focused again in what has been a tricky few months.
Jadon Sancho breaks away to score Borussia Dortmund’s second goal against Wolfsburg
Erling Haaland didn’t score – and had a bad hair day – last week but has 17 goals this season
Fortunately, Erling Haaland has been scoring goals in prodigious quantities to spark the usual round of transfer window tittle-tattle. The Norwegian has 17 for the season overall though he is still a whopping nine behind Lewandowski in the Bundesliga list.
With Dortmund maybe showing some colour in their faces again and Leipzig in hot pursuit of Bayern, this fixture could easily be the weekend stand-out in Europe, let alone Germany.
It would be remiss to ignore third-place Bayer Leverkusen, who are five points shy of Bayern as they entertain Werder Bremen on Saturday afternoon.
They would have led the table entering the briefer-than-usual winter break if not for Lewandowski’s two goals in a 2-1 home loss to Bayern on December 19.
Having stewed on that late blow right over Christmas and New Year, Leverkusen went down 2-1 at Eintracht Frankfurt in their first game back but they really should be too strong for Bremen.
Lewandowski’s late goal left Bayer Leverkusen sunk in the last game before the winter break
There was more disappointment for Leverkusen as they lost to Eintracht Frankfurt last week
Taiwo Awoniyi (right) celebrates scoring for surprise package Union Berlin against Bremen
Union Berlin and Wolfsburg are both tied on 24 points. While Wolfsburg are roughly where they would expect to be in the table, Union are the season’s success story.
Remarkably, they have yet to suffer a loss this season to a side in the top half of the table, are unbeaten in their last four in the league and have been outscored only by Bayern.
With typical modesty, however, they remain laser-focused on accumulating enough points to stave off the threat of a relegation fight before thinking about top six aspirations.
As the hipsters’ choice, plenty will be urging Union on to another win this weekend in a set of fixtures that could tell us plenty about how the Bundesliga will end up come May.
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