EACH season, the same question is asked: can anyone really stop Bayern Munich? There’s sometimes a little suggestion that perhaps the European champions are not totally on their game or signs that another team has got its act together, but for determination and pure skill, nobody seems able to get in Bayern’s way for too long. It has been that way since 2013 and it is beginning to look as if Bayern coach Hansi Flick will get the traditional hose-down with lager once more this year.
Bayern Munich sometimes give a team a head start but still end up comfortable winners. The team has shown, time and time again, they lack nothing in resilience, coming from a goal down 10 times this season to earn at least a point.
Against Borussia Dortmund, Bayern even permitted their opponents a 2-0 lead after nine minutes but came back to win 4-2. Dortmund, it could be argued, scored their goals too early on – Bayern had more than 80 minutes to stage their recovery. The team in yellow also dropped far too deep, almost inviting Bayern to come at them, and they did.
Bayern have lost three Bundesliga games this season, but at home they are unbeaten. RB Leipzig are chasing them hard this season and when Bayern went into the Klassiker, they were in second place after RB Leipzig had beaten Freiburg 3-0 to temporarily leapfrog them. Their form has been patchy at times, prompting criticism from the Bayern top tier, and they have been quite uncharacteristic in defence. They haven’t conceded as many goals in league games for almost 30 years.
They must have been cheering heartily over in eastern Germany when 20 year-old Erling Haaland drove a left foot shot past Manny Neuer in just over a minute’s play. Haaland, a force of nature if ever there was one, did it again eight minutes later, finishing off a superb passage of play as he swept the ball in at the near post, Jamie Vardy style.
Haaland did his cause no harm at all and his performance only served to emphasise his excellent finishing and enormous promise. Flick has tenuously hinted his club might be interested in acquiring the young Norwegian goal machine and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is, apparently, opening his cheque book in anticipation of a summer raid on Dortmund.
The list of Haaland’s suitors is akin to the modern A to Z of European football, including Barcelona, Real Madrid and the two Manchester clubs. Bayern, however, may be favourites – they have been very adept at snatching their rivals’ best players over the past decade, strengthening their own squad while weakening the opposition – invariably BVB.
Haaland, who went off injured, is the most obvious heir apparent to Robert Lewandowski, who netted a hat-trick against his former club and took his tally to 31 Bundesliga goals for the season. The evergreen Pole has now scored 276 league goals, making him one of the Bundesliga’s all-time greats of the penalty area. Haaland, meanwhile hit his 100th goal, a landmark that has been achieved in under 150 games.
Lewandowski will be 33 in August but still has two years remaining on his contract. He shows no sign of slowing-up judging by this season’s haul. There has been talk of him moving to the US to finish his career in Major League Soccer, but he’s likely to see out his contract with Bayern.
Flick’s side returned to the top of the table after their 4-2 win against Dortmund, two points clear of Leipzig. Their 71 goals in 24 games is a remarkable figure given the next highest scoring club in the league is Dortmund on 50. What is notable this season is that Bayern have conceded 34 goals in 24 games.
RB Leipzig will not allow Bayern to accelerate into the distance without a fight, but having lost one piece of their 2020 treble in the DFB Pokal (against Holstein Kiel), Bayern will be eager to make it nine consecutive titles. They will also be out to retain the Champions League and they are already as good as through to the last eight having won 4-1 away to Lazio in the first leg of the round of 16.
Borussia Dortmund were without England’s Jadon Sancho, but Bayern have long been their bete noire, it is almost seven years since they won a league game in Munich. And Bayern like to score against them by the bucketload. In the previous six meetings in Bavaria, they notched-up 26 goals against BVB, conceding just three times. At least the Allianz saw a closer contest this time, even if the outcome provided more evidence that Bayern will most likely make it nine in a row come the end of the campaign. Watch out for RB Leipzig versus Bayern Munich on April 3.