When the German Bundesliga returned on May 16, all eyes were on the action at the top of the table.
Bayern Munich have won seven consecutive editions of the top-flight competition, and heading into the restart they were five points clear at the summit of the standings once again.
Eight straight league triumphs would extend their own record, and you suspect that would be a landmark that would stand for decades to come.
However, the likes of Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig might have something to say about that. They can still usurp the reigning champions, and some notable fixtures – Bayern still have to play Dortmund and top-six sides Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia M’gladbach this term – will present opportunities to close the gap.
The bookmakers would have you believe that the title race is all but over according to their German Bundesliga outright winner football betting odds, but could there yet be a sting in the tail in this most bizarre of seasons?
It’s Not How You Start, But How You Finish
It has been a curious campaign from Bayern, who have cut a swathe through the Champions League but struggled to assert their dominance on the domestic scene.
Indeed, if you look at the period from August 16 to December 7, their Bundesliga formline read W7 D3 L4 – not exactly title-winning progress.
The key date in 2019 appears to be November 3, which was the day that former head coach Niko Kovac received his marching orders. He was replaced by Hans-Dieter Flick, the assistant coach of the German national team, and he took his time getting his orders across to his players.
But now, well, the superstars of Bayern are well and truly on board with Flick’s philosophies. Between December 14 and March 8, their Bundesliga formline read W10 D L0 and they smashed their way into the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Notably, the underlying performance data suggests that Die Roten are good value for their lead too, with Understat giving them a comfortable cushion in their Expected Points table. So maybe the bookmakers have got it right after all…
The only hope for the chasing pack is that Bayern experience ring rust on their return to action, and lest we forget they still have a few notable scalps in their ranks – the likes of Niklas Sule, Philippe Coutinho and Corentin Tolisso aren’t expected to resume full training until late June.
Neutral fans hoping that the title race goes to the wire will presumably be looking to the romance and effervescent style of Borussia Dortmund to prosper over the shady RB Leipzig, a club financed by the Red Bull energy drinks company that barely existed a decade ago.
There is a joy to watching Dortmund in full flight, with Jadon Sancho, Thorgan Hazard and co now joined by a genuine goal-grabber in Erling Braut Haaland – the future looks very bright for them.
But they must yet tackle Leipzig this term, and with a fixture against Bayern also in the pipeline it’s a probable – rather than a possible – that Dortmund will drop points and allow the Munich outfit to increase their lead at the top of the table.
Either way, the nerve-shredding conclusion to the Bundesliga campaign will be fascinating to watch.