Not since the partially postponed 2019/20 season have we seen a title race in Germany. That year, Bayern Munich and a young Borussia Dortmund side — spearheaded by the likes of Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland — went toe-to-toe in a battle for the title. Die Schwarzgelben reeled off six consecutive victories between February and May, which dragged them within touching distance of the league-leading Bavarians. The pair then did battle at Signal Iduna Park, and with one deft chip from the right boot of Joshua Kimmich, the title race was over before it truly started. Bayern would go on to the romp to the title by 13 points, winning 19 of their final 20 games that term.
This season, it looked like the reigning ten-time champions would power their way to another title victory by a similar margin. But three consecutive draws in their first three games since the second half of the Bundesliga campaign got back underway has seemingly opened the door for their nearest rivals. Naturally, oddschecker, which compares German football odds and free offers, still makes Bayern the overwhelming favourites to defend their crown. But there can be no denying that the door to a first title race in some time is now well and truly opened.
Following Bayern’s new year slip-up the gap between themselves and Freiburg — who are way down in sixth place — is just six points. But the teams that have made the most of the recent dropped points at the Allianz Arena are the teams in second and third, Union Berlin and Borussia Dortmund.
Earlier in the campaign, Union had led the way in the Bundesliga. They hadn’t lost in their opening seven games of the season, winning five of them, and after seven matchdays, were the surprising leaders at the summit of the German top flight. Naturally, they aren’t thought of as one of the division’s powerhouses, and their incredible form expectedly dipped. But while Bayern were drawing against Eintracht Frankfurt, FC Köln, and RB Leipzig in recent weeks, Union were picking up victories against Mainz, Werder Bremen, Hoffenheim, and archrivals Hertha. Those victories have left them just one point behind the league leaders.
Prior to the World Cup-enforced winter break getting underway, things were going from bad to worse in North Rhine-Westphalia. The club broke up for Qatar off the back of back-to-back defeats against Wolfsburg and local rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach. They were a million miles behind the league leaders.
But in recent weeks, Der BVB have reeled off four consecutive victories, and they have shown their fighting spirit in doing so. In their first game back following football’s greatest showpiece in the Arabian Gulf, they had to take the lead four times against Augsburg to seal a 4-3 victory, with Giovanni Reyna striking the winner 12 minutes from full time. The following week, the American attacker struck a 93rd-minute winner away at Mainz to drag the club further toward the league leaders. Further convincing victories would follow, firstly a 2-0 victory against Bayer Leverkusen and then a 5-1 drubbing of Freiburg, means that Dortmund are now just three points behind their most competitive of rivals.
Bayern remain the favourites
As we eluded to earlier, Bayern Munich remain the favourites to make it 11 consecutive champions this term, and overwhelmingly so. But their rivals have hope, which is more than they have had for years. This season, they have struggled without their former talisman Robert Lewandowski, and his replacement, former Liverpool man Sadio Mane, has struggled with injury problems. In the meantime, the club has had to rely on young starlet Jamal Musiala to carry their title charge on his back.
But over at Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund have a young sensation of their own, namely Jude Bellingham. The 19-year-old Englishman is perhaps the most wanted footballer on the planet, and his performances in Qatar for the Three Lions have only enhanced his reputation. The teenager has shown maturity beyond his years, even captaining BVB three times this term.
Whether the title race heads toward the season’s latter stages remains to be seen. But the division’s two protagonists, Bellingham and Musiala, were international teammates in their younger years, and that will provide an interesting subplot should the story continue.