Bayern and Dortmund will go to the wire; there will be more blood at the Allianz

Ian King

Bayern Munich may be about to lose the Bundesliga title for the first time in a decade after losing to RB Leipzig. Bring on the blood-letting.

The title races may be over in England, France, Italy and Spain, but in Germany it’s going to the wire. This in itself is a somewhat unfamiliar scenario. Last year, Bayern won the title by eight points, and in each of the two previous seasons the margin was 13. Bayern Munich have won the last ten successive German league titles and the last time the Bundesliga went to the last day of the season was in 2019, when Bayern beat Eintracht Frankfurt 5-1 to confirm the title while Borussia Dortmund won 2-0 at Borussia Moenchengladbach.

In truth, Dortmund threw the title away three games earlier that season with a horror show of a 4-2 home defeat against their bitterest rivals Schalke 04, a result which not only cost them three points in a race they ended up losing by two, but which also went a long way towards ensuring Schalke’s survival at the other end of the table by ending a terrible run of six defeats from their previous eight games. But it hasn’t been anywhere near as close since.

Bayern Munich’s home game against RB Leipzig had been trailed as a potential weak point in their title run-in, and this is a team fast running out of lives. They’d lost one league game in each of February, March and April, and they really couldn’t afford to lose any more. And Leipzig was a tough game, even at home. They were in third place in the table themselves, and a win at the Allianz Arena would tie up their Champions League place for next season.

All was going well…Serge Gnabry gave them the lead in the first half, and Kingsley Coman might have doubled it with a free header that he put wide shortly before half-time. But in the second half it all fell apart. Nineteen minutes in, Bayern committed an inexplicable number of players forward considering the precarious nature of their lead, and when Leipzig broke they found just the one defender back to face them. Austrian international Konrad Laimer, who will be joining Bayern on July 1, levelled things up.

If that was bad, what followed was disastrous. Two second-half penalties gave Leipzig a 3-1 win and reopened a window for Dortmund to leapfrog them and, while long-time Dortmund watchers will have fully understood their club’s aptitude for somehow throwing away such an opportunity with a trip to Augsburg, on this occasion they came through with a 3-0 win that wasn’t quite as comprehensive as the final scoreline might have suggested.

So on the last day of the season in the Bundesliga, the mathematics are straightforward. Dortmund lead Bayern by two points. If they can beat Mainz at home next Saturday, they will be the champions. But if they fail to win – and Bayern’s goal difference is so much better than Dortmund’s that there’s no contest there – then Bayern Munich can still win an 11th successive title if they can win away to Koln. There’s one game left, and Bayern have one remaining get-out-of-jail-free card. But it’s definitely out of their hands.

It says a lot about the the stranglehold that Bayern Munich have held over German club football for such an extended period of time that such a scenario can provoke such excitement, and this is, of course, not an affliction to which the English are somehow immune, with a growing feeling that the Premier League could be headed for a similar period of domination by one club.

And such is the extent of this domination that being in this position has come to feel like a disaster for the club. Replacing Julian Nagelsmann with Thomas Tuchel may have been considered necessary within the club’s politically charged backrooms, but it hasn’t been conspicuously successful.

But unless a considerable improvement is evident by the start of the autumn, there’s a high likelihood that the heat will start to turned up under Tuchel, too. These patterns can form fairly quickly when you start making rash decisions like sacking your head coach in March.

It would be harsh to push the club’s problems onto a manager who only arrived at the club in the last week in March, but that doesn’t mean that there might not be considerable blood-letting come the end of this season, and at the top of the list to go may be CEO Oliver Kahn and Sporting Director Hasan Salihamidzic, who stand accused of letting Robert Lewandowski and David Alaba go last summer without adequately replacing them. Sadio Mane was an astute signing; he’s an excellent player. But in almost no way whatsoever could he be considered a straight swap for Lewandowski, who’s spent this season helping Barcelona build up a very, well, Bayern-esque lead at the top of La Liga.

Borussia Dortmund certainly shouldn’t be taking anything for granted just yet. There are clubs with more ignominious histories of dragging defeat from the jaws of victory – Hamburg spring immediately to mind – but Dortmund have a pretty decent record at doing this themselves, and with more than 81,000 watching them on Saturday at the Westfalendstadion, it would be understandable if there were some nerves.

But this Bayern Munich team has been ordinary this season, both in the league and in the Champions League, in which their quarter-final defeat to Manchester City came with a distinct whimper, with inarguable evidence of the extent to which Bayern have fallen behind this season. Borussia Dortmund could yet slip on a banana skin, but if they stay on their feet, then the ten-in-a-row champions will hardly be able to say that they haven’t had a good run.