Schalke 04 vs Bayern
It was never going to be a contest, was it? Bayern Munich, top of the league standings and have lost only 2 games all season, against measly Schalke 04 who have just 1 win all season with 13(!) losses and 4 draws.
Die Knappen look headed for relegation bar a miracle while Die Roten look set to win their 9th straight Bundesliga title. With their fortunes contrasting each other, they faced off in round 18 of the Bundesliga. Schalke tried to fight early on. They forced former player Manuel Neuer into one of his miraculous saves when Bastian Oczipka teased in a cross with Mark Uth powering the header in the 10th minute. They would force another header, but Neuer who recently equalled Oliver Kahn’s clean sheet tally of 196 was desperate to break the record.
Schalke players looked tense when those 2 chances did not bring any goal. They tried to play out from the back but Bayern hurried them into silly mistakes (they lost the ball thrice in one buildup sequence).
It was in the 32nd minute that Bayern Munich got their goal. After rotating the ball well on the right, Joshua Kimmich found the space to time his trademark cross for Thomas Muller. 0-1. Trademark roaring celebration from Mr Bayern. From then on, it was Bayern’s game.
The second goal did not come until the 54th minute though. This time Joshua Kimmich dropped deep to assist buildup and Robert Lewandowski made a well-timed run ahead. Kimmich found Lewandowski’s run and the polish striker did well to hold off Ozan Kabak before finishing the move. 0-2. The 3rd was just as straightforward.
Free-kick from the right and Kimmich delivered a glorious cross for Muller to head home in the 87th minute. 0-3. Ralf Fahrmann looked sheepish when a David Alaba shot that should have been comfortably gathered snuck into the net. 0-4.
A brace for Muller, a hat trick of assists for Joshua Kimmich, and 197 Bundesliga clean sheets for Manuel Neuer (a record). Schalke stay rooted to the bottom and not even legend Klaas-Jan Huntelaar can save them. Bayern Munich already with one grubby hand on the title despite coronation being 16 game weeks away.
The Chasing Pack
RB Leipzig put in a spirited run under baby tactician with a curious fashion sense Julian Nagelsmann. Angelino’s form combined with defensive solidity helped them to the top of the table but Bayern reclaimed their spot with more consistency. Leipzig’s loss to Mainz 05 means that the gap between Leipzig and Bayern is now 7 points, and with 16 rounds of games left, it is easy to see Bayern lifting that championship shield (a piece Game of thrones fighters would have appreciated).
Usual chasers Borussia Dortmund even face the risk of not qualifying for the UEFA Champions League football as they sit in 7th place. Edin Terzic has not changed the fortunes of BVB since the sacking of Lucien Favre with the same problems rearing their heads. They were beaten 4-2 by Borussia Monchengladbach as the brilliance of Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho was not enough to keep them from the slaughter.
Dortmund winless in 3 games (2 defeats and a draw). Ironically, Marco Rose of Borussia Monchengladbach is the current frontrunner for the Dortmund job.
Speaking of Marco Rose and his side, Die Fohlen have not looked as terrific as they were last season but they are still on course for a European place finish. They have Ajax’s Erik Ten Hag lined up in case Rose leaves but nothing is done. This move might be better on paper for Rose but it might be more sideways than he thinks (it will be a step down for Erik Ten Hag though).
In the absence of Kevin Volland, Monchengladbach is not the same, the drop in form of deadly duo Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea does not help either. The younger Frenchman also recently returned from a lengthy ban for a stupid act while Plea has been far from ideal with 2 goals and 1 assist. Those are not Championship winning numbers.
Another team that started the season in red-hot form is Bayer Leverkusen. Lucas Alario has almost matched his highest ever tally for Leverkusen in a Bundesliga season with 8 (his highest is the 9 he scored in his first 2 seasons). Patrik Schick has 5 goals in 10 Bundesliga starts, Nadiem Amiri has scored 2 and assisted 6, while youngster Florian Wirtz is flourishing.
The raw speed and dribbling of Moussa Diaby combined with the raw speed, dribbling, and return to form of Leon Bailey led fans to believe that maybe, just maybe. SIKE! They do not have the mental fortitude that Bayern exudes. Leverkusen lost to the surprise team of the year Union Berlin last week. They also lost to Wolfsburg this weekend, ending any dreams of a title.
Sticking with Wolfsburg, Oliver Glasner is doing great things with that squad buoyed by the goals of target-man
Edin Dzeko Bas Dost Wout Weghorst. They defeated Leverkusen as Ridle Baku scored the only goal of the game. They sit in 4th position and will be trying to keep Monchengladbach at bay until the season ends.
There is No One Else
Even in a season like this where Bayern gave opportunities for others to leapfrog them, no-one has been able to capitalize. No one has the mental fortitude to challenge this Bayern side. Bayern Munich remains a ruthless winning machine but year in, year out, it is frustrating as a fan to watch the chasers wilt long before the journey is even over. It is not financial, it is mental. Hertha Berlin after huge investments continues to be very mediocre. This has led to the sacking of coach Bruno Labbadia and Sporting Director Michael Preetz. This leaves the Bundesliga with no major contender from Berlin, the capital city of Germany.
Borussia Dortmund is a flaky team. They sacked their most ambitious coach after selling his best players yet cry foul about TV rights. It looks like they are comfortable enough playing second fiddle. These days they look inferior to newcomers RB Leipzig. As for RB Leipzig, They are a young team with time on their hands but bigger clubs may not allow them to grow. Bayern Munich will always have a hand in such timely moves to destabilize a Bundesliga competitor. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is talking about Dayot Upamecano as if the player does not belong to a rival. Bayer Leverkusen have never had it in them, we have waited 117 years for them but it has never happened.
In truth, there is no one else. The usual group will pretend to challenge but they always return with the same results. Bayern domineering to a Bundesliga title by game week 28 leaving them to fight over European spots.