You might have missed it but for the first time in what feels like forever there is a proper title race in the Bundesliga.
As we come back from the international break and go into the last nine games of the season FC Bayern Munich, winners of the last ten titles, find themselves in second place, one point behind Borussia Dortmund.
At various stages this season it looked as if Dortmund were dead and buried, and in fact it might be RB Leipzig who would challenge Bayern, but their form since the World Cup break has been immense. They have won 11 out of 13 games in all competitions thus far and Edin Terzic’s men might be poised to finally end Bayern’s reign of dominance.
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It’s all set up to be a fascinating spectacle, and in order to find out more we got in touch with Florian Bogner from Eurosport Germany.
To start with, we asked him if there was a buzz about the game that isn’t often seen in other years.
Bogner said: “There definitely is, despite the fact that the majority of people believe that Bayern will win this Klassiker again …
“Bayern won the last eight home games in a row in the Bundesliga against Dortmund, scoring 33 goals in total.
“But still having an open title race by the start of April is definitely not common for the Bundesliga in the last decade and highly appreciated amongst fans.”
And what about the new man in the dugout for Bayern? What can we expect from Tuchel?
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“That’s the big question indeed!” Bogner replied. “Tuchel only has one real training session with the whole squad which is today (Thursday), so that’s not a lot of time to incorporate huge changes in tactics or the line-up.
“But sure; Bayern has about 18 potential starters and Tuchel already said at his press conference that some players won’t be happy with him for the rest of the season.
“What one can say is that Nagelsmann preferred a system with three defenders in his final few months at Bayern and Tuchel also preferred this at Chelsea. So maybe there won’t be much changes on the sheet for his start.”
And how much pressure is there on the new boss? It’s clear to all that they brought Tuchel in because they had concerns about the upcoming games against Dortmund and Manchester City in the Champions League.
Bogner says that there isn’t a chance he’ll get sacked even if he loses both matches, but he would certainly erode a lot of the good will he had.
“Well, Tuchel obviously won’t be sacked if they lose against Dortmund and City, but he would already use up a lot of his credit,” Bogner said. “There is also the DFB-Pokal game against SC Freiburg in the week as well.
The Bayern fans took the sacking of Nagelsmann with a sense of bewilderment, the common opinion was that this came as a big surprise and a feeling of ‘they have hit the panic button here’.
“So if Tuchel can’t perform in these very important games, there will be some very uncomfortable days ahead for him and he will struggle to get the fans behind him…”
So let’s return to the Dortmund game. Only a point separates the two sides as we mentioned earlier. Who is this more important for?
“Definitely more important for Bayern,” Bogner replies. “They want to put their foot down, establish the old ranking, want to be back on top – and demoralise Borussia Dortmund once again.
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“Also it’s very important for Tuchel to have a good start and for the boardroom to prove that the dismissal of Nagelsmann was the right thing to do.
For Dortmund it’s still also a very important match, no doubt about that.
“Winning in Munich would give them amazing confidence for the rest of the season, a feeling of: ‘We might actually be able to win it this year.’
“But if they lose they still would have plenty of games to close the gap, which would only be two points to Bayern, who will then have their focus also on the Champions League as well as the league.”
Where will the game be won and lost? Who are the key players?
“For Dortmund the key will lie in the centre of the midfield,” explains Bogner. “Will they be able to press in midfield, win balls in the key areas and hinder Bayern from having a lot of possession in the last third of the pitch?
“Terzic made a nice adjustment in recent weeks to install Raphael Guerreiro in centre midfield alongside Emre Can and Jude Bellingham to add the element of speed.
“Can will definitely be a key player – the former Bayern player is in good form, but is not the fastest guy on earth, sometimes struggling with the speed of opposing players on big occasions.
“For Bayern the key area will be the wings as Jamal Musiala is injured and they don’t have a comparable player who can come inside and create nice patterns between the lines of defenders. Kingsley Coman has risen to the big occasions in recent times, so maybe that’s a game he likes to take advantage of…”
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