Borussia Dortmund went into the second international break of the season atop of Bundesliga and have a four-point lead over defending champions Bayern Munich, who’ve made a lackluster start to the campaign and are currently languishing in seventh spot.
Bayern have won the league for the past six seasons and were favourites for a seventh consecutive top-flight title at the start of the campaign. The Bavarians won their first four games in the league under new manager Niko Kovac but are winless in their last three games after losses against Borussia Monchengladbach and Hertha Berlin as well as a draw with FC Augsburg.
Their sudden loss of form was the perfect opportunity for other clubs to pile some pressure on Germany’s most successful club and that’s exactly what Dortmund have done. Revitalised under their new manager Lucien Favre, Dortmund are the best side in Germany at the moment.
Exciting to watch, the current Dortmund outfit are a throwback to the raw, visceral and all-action side that won back-to-back league titles under the charismatic Jurgen Klopp. They are the last side besides Bayern to have lifted the Bundesliga and if early season form is to be taken seriously then they’ll probably be the next as well.
Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho celebrate after a goal
With a host of attacking talent on display, Die Borussen’s last result and performance has laid down the gauntlet for Bayern. Their thrilling 4-3 win in stoppage-time over Augsburg came after they were 2-1 down at one point. However, their squad depth meant that they could summon players like World Cup winner Mario Gotze from the bench.
Gotze made a difference by getting on the scoresheet, while striker Paco Alcacer netted a hat-trick including the stoppage-time winner to put the rest of the league on notice about the team’s title aspirations. Bayern, of course, are likely to be their main challengers as the season develops, however, unlike the past few seasons, many experts and pundits are of the opinion that the defending champions no longer possess the strongest attack in the league.
Upon closer inspection of Dortmund’s squad, it is easy to understand why this is the case. Captain Marco Reus, playmaker Shinji Kagawa and winger Christian Pulisic have all been part of the setup over the past few years and seem to be thriving in a free-flowing brand of football – the best they’ve looked in years.
Axel Witsel battles for the ball
Add to that, solidity in midfield with the likes of Julian Weigl, Sebastian Rode as well as the summer acquisition of Axel Witsel and it’s easy to see why they are being tipped to give the Bavarians a run for their money. Jadon Sancho, who became the first Englishman this century to receive a call-up to the senior national squad, is another gem unearthed by Dortmund.
Sancho’s scintillating form this season has seen him provide six assists and one goal in 214 minutes of league football to put him on top of the assists chart. Alcacer is also the top-scorer in the league with six goals even though he has played just three games. With so many positives and momentum on their side, Dortmund are one of the in-form teams in Europe at the moment.
Whether they can maintain their form and win their first league title since the 2011–12 season remains to be seen. One area they’ll need to improve on substantially for that to happen is their defence, which has leaked eight goals so far.
Another aspect that could have a bearing on their title chances is the fitness of their star men, especially captain Reus, who has struggled to stay fit throughout the season in the past few years. Having said that, this is the best Dortmund have looked and played in years. And if they can still stay within touching distance of the top come the second half of the season then anything’s possible as we brace ourselves for the most exciting title race in Germany for years.
Words: Andre Pitts