A Dortmund Bundesliga win would be good for Germany

FOR THE first time in years, Bayern Munich have had to scramble to retain their Bundesliga title. It is far from certain that they will be successful as they are two points behind Borussia Dortmund with one game to go. Bayern will travel to Koln on May 27, while BVB will host Mainz. If Dortmund succeed, it may well send the Bavarians into a tail-spin of panic; they have not been used to being challenged on the domestic front for a decade and it’s obvious they don’t enjoy it, as the knee-jerk dismissal of Julian Nagelsmann demonstrated. Just what failure will do to the future of Thomas Tuchel remains to be seen.

Bayern lost their way at home to RB Leipzig by 3-1 in their last fixture, a result that suggests RB are getting used to managing big games. They won the DFB Pokal last season and they’re back in the final again this season and will play Eintracht Frankfurt on June 3 in Berlin.

Dortmund have, at times, been quite stunning to watch, especially at home, where they have scored 53 goals in 16 games and won all but two. They’ve lost just once, a slip-up against Bremen, and drawn one game, with Bayern, and have attracted an average of 81,000 to their famous stadium. 

Bayern have missed the goals of Robert Lewandowski, who moved to Barcelona for € 45 million, and they have others like Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller who are coming to the end of their time at the club. Dortmund’s mix of experience and younger, promising players such as Jude Bellingham, Nico Schlotterbeck and Karim Adeyemi makes for an energetic team that knows their time could be now – such is the power of Bayern that next season they will surely regroup and strengthen. This BVB side, which overcame the loss of Erling Haaland and Manuel Akanji to Manchester City and Axel Witsel to Atletico Madrid in pre-season, has to win the Bundesliga in 2022-23.

1Borussia Dortmund33224781427039
2Bayern Munich33208590376853
3RB Leipzig33196860396321
4Union Berlin33178850385912

And if they do become champions, it will be good for Germany and a victory for those that want club football to be more democratic. In the past 10 years, Bayern, PSG, Manchester City, Juventus, Real and Barcelona have stood astride their domestic leagues. In 2022-23, there’s been a little chink of light in the form of Napoli in Italy, Arsenal in England and Dortmund in the Bundesliga.

Across Europe, you cannot get away from the fact that most leagues have been, and will continue to be, governed by one or two (and maybe three) major clubs. In the last five years, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia have only known one champion. In some countries, such as Scotland, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, France, Belgium and Bulgaria, one club is the dominant force with the occasional deviation provided by a rival that is only a limited window to shine.

Dortmund and Bayern are among the very top clubs in terms of crowd appeal – there are 23 clubs that attract 50,000 or more in Europe and the German duo are at the summit. The Bundesliga’s overall attendances are still at the top, with an average of almost 43,000, although the Premier League is closing the gap with gates above 40,000. 

Dortmund have developed a reputation for being an excellent stepping stone for players, hiring them at reasonable prices or nurturing them from youth and selling them on for a profit. Jadon Sancho was one such player and England international Bellingham will surely be the next to move, possibly to Real Madrid if you believe the rumour-mill. Over the past 10 years, Dortmund have spent € 840 million on players, but have received € 923 million from sales. The net effect is a positive of € 83 million. Bayern, by contrast, have a net spend of € 340 million in the same timeframe.

Coach Edin Terzic returned to BVB in the summer of 2022 after the departure of Marco Rose and it is clear he has been behind their transformation into potential champions. The final day of the Bundesliga season approaches and it could be a landmark moment for German football. Dortmund may be in the driving seat, but as we all know, Bayern Munich can never be written off. They have been in this position before and if they are deposed, it won’t be long before they regain the top prize.

How they’re shaping up – the situation in top European leagues

THE 0-0 draw between Arsenal and Newcastle United underlined how much progress these two sides have made over the last year, but it also demonstrated, to a certain degree, that both will be challenged to last the pace in the Premier League. Manchester City are waiting in the wings and will have been pleased with the stalemate at the Emirates Stadium.

For the past decade, European football has stagnated in so far that most leagues are dominated by a single entity, maybe two at a push. The Premier League is one of the more democratic, although it is bossed by half a dozen clubs with more money than the rest. The Premier, since 2012-13, has had five different champions, although five of the 10 titles have gone to Manchester City, with four of those won in the last five years.

Here’s the situation in some of Europe’s top leagues as 2023 gets underway:


Red Bull Salzburg are top and six points clear of Sturm Graz, the only side to beat the champions this season. Salzburg have won the last seven Bundesligas, their financial advantages enabling them to dominate Austrian football. Although the Austrian league is a two-stage affair, it is difficult to look beyond Salzburg, who are also in the last eight of the Austrian Cup, which they have won for the past four seasons.


Genk, who last won the Belgian league in 2019, are seven points in front of second-placed Union Saint-Gilloise. Club Brugge, who have won the past three titles, are not faring so well this season, although they are in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. They have recently appointed former Fulham and Bournemouth manager Scott Parker as their coach. Anderlecht, who were third in 2021-22, are floundering in mid-table.


It would be a major shock if Paris Saint-Germain were not top of Ligue 1 at the start of a new year. They have a four-point advantage over Lens, who beat them 3-1 to end an unbeaten run that stretched back to March 2022. PSG have Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé in their ranks and a wage bill that dwarfs the rest of Ligue 1. If nothing else, the performance of Lens (they have lost just once, too), suggests the French league will be more interesting than usual.


Unsurprisingly, Bayern Munich are on top once more and have a four- point lead over surprise club Freiburg. RB Leipzig, who have recovered after a poor start, are in third place. Bayern have lost just once (against Augsburg) and have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League after ending the group stage with a 100% record. Four points is a relatively modest lead at the top of the Bundesliga, but Bayern are equipped to relentlessly go after their 11th consecutive league success.


Serie A is very interesting this season, but Napoli are winning all the plaudits for their exciting style. They have a seven-point lead at the top and are unbeaten. AC Milan, the reigning champions, are in second place and crisis club Juventus are third, but pressure has been building on coach Max Allegri after they were knocked out of the Champions League at the group phase. Napoli have impressed in Europe and are in the last 16 of the competition, along with AC Milan and Inter Milan.


Feyenoord went into 2023 on top of the Eredivisie, three points in front of Ajax and PSV Eindhoven. This should make for an exciting second half of the campaign, although Ajax have been very clumsy in losing points cheaply. They have lost twice, to PSV and AZ Alkmaar. PSV have beaten both Feyenoord and Ajax this season, but they have just lost the talented Cody Gakpo to Liverpool. All three Dutch giants are still involved in the UEFA Europa League.


As ever, the Primeira Liga is being dominated by Benfica and Porto, with Braga and Sporting behind them. Benfica, who enjoyed a successful Champions League group stage, are top and five points ahead of Porto, who also qualified for the last 16. Benfica lost their first game of the league campaign in their first post-Christmas fixture, a 3-0 drubbing at Braga. A prolific player-trading club, they look set to receive another cash windfall if they sell Enzo Fernández to a top Premier league club in the aftermath of the 2022 World Cup.


Already people are talking about Celtic as champions and that it is a case of “theirs to lose”. Certainly, their nine point lead over Rangers looks insurmountable at this stage of the season. The two sides drew 2-2 on January 2 at Ibrox, but their first meeting saw Celtic win 4-0. Both teams saw their shortcomings exposed in Europe, finishing bottom of their Champions League groups. They could yet meet in the Scottish League Cup final in February.


Inevitably, it is a two-horse race once more in Spain, with Barcelona and Real Madrid level on 38 points after 15 games. The two teams have almost identical records, but Barca are ahead on goal difference. Real Sociedad are in third place, but nine points worse off than the big two. Atlético Madrid are having a somewhat patchy season. Real Madrid are the only Spanish side in the last 16 of the Champions League, both Barca and Atléti, along with Sevilla, went out at the group stage, but Barca are in the Europa League, where they will face Manchester United.


While reigning champions Zurich are embroiled in a relegation fight, Young Boys Bern look poised to regain the crown they lost in 2022. They have a 10-point margin at the top of the Super League, with Servette in second position. YB are the league’s top scorers with 35 goals in 16 games, but they have also conceded just nine goals. They look red hot favourites to win the title.  

While most of the title-chasers are fairly predictable, there are possibilities of shocks, notably in England (Arsenal), France (Lens) and the Netherlands (Feyenoord). On the other hand, this list may just read Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Ajax. We can dream.