Who Can Beat Bayern Munich To Bundesliga Title?
Bayern Munich’s pursuit of their eight successive Bundesliga title is in jeopardy following a dismal first part of the campaign. For the first time in a while, the Bavarians face stiff competition in pursuing the league crown, with three other German clubs looking confident of ending Bayern’s domestic dominance.
A tumultuous first half of the season saw the perennial Bundesliga holders sack manager Niko Kovac after just 18 months, with Hansi Flick taking his place as an interim solution. The Croatian coach was sacked after a disastrous 5-1 away loss to Eintracht Frankfurt in November, but 'Die Roten' has still failed to reclaim the top spot afterward.
Under Flick's tutelage, Bayern have won five of seven league fixtures, losing the other two. As a consequence, they went into the Christmas break from the third place, four points adrift of league-leaders Leipzig. Although they've shown flashes of their brilliance during the first half of the season, Bayern's defensive fragilities and problems in the attacking third have been exposed on multiple occasions.
Indeed, the opening 17 rounds of the Bundesliga fixtures have shown that the Bavarians are beatable and vulnerable. The end of Bayern's undisputed dominance of German football is not only a possibility but also a reality, with a few sides lurking in the shadows, hopeful they can take advantage of the Bavarians' struggling.
Julian Nagelsmann's attacking-minded style has turned Leipzig into a force to be reckoned with as they continue to impress in both Germany and Europe. 'Die Roten Bullen' have not only finished the first half of the Bundesliga campaign at the top of the table - four points clear of the reigning holders Bayern Munich, but they've also managed to seal a place in the Champions League knockout stages.
Under Nagelsmann's reign, Leipzig have gained consistency they lacked last season when they finished 12 points below Bayern. The former TSG Hoffenheim boss seems to have succeeded in his efforts to solve Leipzig's problems when away from home. Indeed, five of their six defeats last season came on the road, but the current Bundesliga leaders have suffered just one loss in nine league away games so far this term, winning six of the other eight (D1).
Leipzig have scored more league goals than any other Bundesliga side ahead of the winter break (48), netting an average of 2.82 goals per league fixture. Importantly, 52% of those goals have arrived away from home, which is the most notable improvement, comparing to the 2018/19 season. In fact, Nagelsmann's men have already bagged 25 away goals this campaign, in comparison to 29 they managed throughout the entire last season.
Aside from an impressive attacking output, Leipzig also boast the third-best defensive record in the Bundesliga. Only Borussia Monchengladbach (18) and Wolfsburg (18) have shipped fewer league goals than the Red Bull outfit (20). Notably, 40% of those goals have come in four clashes against the top-five sides.
Probably the only thing Nagelsmann has to improve to boost Leipzig's chances of winning their first-ever Bundesliga title is his team's performance against the top-five clubs. 'Die Roten Bullen' have endured mixed fortunes in their previous four such fixtures (W1, D2, L1) this term, conceding the opening goal before the half-hour mark on three of those occasions.
Home Experts - Borussia Monchengladbach
Although Borussia Monchengladbach headed to the winter break as the second-placed team in the table, their flaws away from home could come costly in the second half of the campaign. In fact, only 37% of their total league points have come away from Borussia Park, and such oscillations are the main stumbling block Marco Rose's men have to overcome to challenge Leipzig and Bayern for the title.
But, the Foals have established themselves as ‘home specialists’ as they’ve picked up seven wins in nine league home fixtures (D1, L1), returning more home points than any other German club (22). They are so strong and compact at home that even Bayern failed to walk away from Borussia Park with a single point.
New Season, Same Old Dortmund
Lucien Favre's men are struggling to maintain consistency, with a lot of ups and downs highlighting their league campaign so far. An indifferent Bundesliga record of eight wins, six draws, and three defeats sees the BVB trail, table-toppers Leipzig, by seven points. That's thanks to the fact that 'Die Borussen' feel quite comfortable on home turf but very shaky when they hit the road.
Each of their three league losses ahead of the Christmas break has come away from the Signal Iduna Park, where Dortmund conceded 62.5% of their total Bundesliga goals so far. But, Favre has a core of young, super-talented players who can fight for the title if the right balance is found.
If Favre manages to unleash devastating firepower he has at his disposal, the BVB might roar their way back into contention for the ultimate prize. Jadon Sancho, Julian Brandt, Thorgan Hazard, and now Erling Braut Haaland compile an attacking line a very few teams in Europe's top-five leagues can boast. But, due to their young age, they all need the right guidance to fulfill their potential. That’s the aspect Favre is expected to devote his attention to in the second half of the season.
The ex-Salzburg hitman joined Dortmund in the January transfer window after establishing himself as one of the hottest prospects in Europe during his prolific six-month spell in Austria. Although Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus all expressed interest in signing the 19-year-old whizz-kid, Dortmund have beaten them all, capturing Haaland's services for around €20million.
Haaland's signing demonstrates the BVB's ambition to win the Bundesliga title for the first time since 2011/12. But, it is now up to the youngster to prove that his success in the Austrian Bundesliga and Europe was not random. Dortmund's chances of cutting down the gap on Leipzig will increase should the Norwegian starlet manages to live up to expectations and replicate an astonishing form from Salzburg. He has netted 16 goals in the national championship and added eight more in the Champions League, which recommended him to Europe's big guns.
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