Not even injuries can slow Bayern Munich’s march through the Bundesliga
Imagine the sort of injury crisis that deprives you of two international centre-halves and your captain, a leader whose roles switch between full-back and holding midfield but is always dominant wherever he plays.
At most clubs, that would mean a defensive crisis, a serious setback. At Bayern Munich, it has coincided with a record for domestic resilience.
The number of goals let in by Bayern in the first half of the Bundesliga campaign? Four.
That is in 17 fixtures. Clearly, and as predicted by everyone except their coach, Pep Guardiola, who defiantly maintains a posture that retaining the title will be hugely demanding, Bayern are more than halfway to winning a third successive league championship.
They have dropped only six points, have not lost in the Bundesliga and stand 11 points clear of their nearest pursuer.
In Germany, the identity of the second-place team now tends to become the bigger story, so elevated are Bayern, even when they are without the injured Philipp Lahm, Javi Martinez, Holger Badstuber and Thiago Alcantara.
Desperately trying to keep sight of the coattails of Bayern this winter are Wolfsburg, thriving on the creative promptings of the Belgian midfielder Kevin de Bruyne.
Wolfsburg won the Bundesliga five seasons ago, when Grafite, the striker now with Al Ahli, was the German player of the year, but that was a different era, a time when the trophy would regularly leave Bavaria.
“Ah, those were the days,” the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Werder Bremen and Stuttgart may suggest. All three have won Bundesliga shields this century. All three are more concerned with the threat of relegation at the moment.
Dortmund’s plunge has been spectacular. “Idiots,” coach Jurgen Klopp called them – he was not excluding himself – after they slumped to a 10th league defeat, to Bremen, just before the recess. Excuses? Dortmund have certainly suffered a rash of injuries to senior players in 2014. But then, so have Bayern.
“It’s been the worst half a season possible,” said Dortmund captain Mats Hummels, a World Cup winner with Germany less than six months ago.
He is nearly right. Had they scored just one goal fewer, or leaked one more than the 26 they have conceded, they would be bottom rather than 17th, ahead of Freiburg only by the narrowest margin.
Yet this is the same Dortmund who won their Uefa Champions League group and will be fancied to give Juventus a tough encounter in the last 16 of that competition, which features four Bundesliga clubs in its knockout phase. That is a measure of the muscle the World Cup-holding nation flexes on the highest club stage.
Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE
Published: December 24, 2014 04:00 AM