Under normal circumstances, a return from an agonising 2 weeks without club football is cause for celebration. However, they aren’t smiling much in Dortmund this week after their trip to the Allianz Arena to face Bayern Munich ended in disaster, as die Schwarzgelben limped home following a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of their hosts. The Bavarians held no concern for their rivals’ embarrassment as the league’s front runners looked to make a statement in the biggest fixture on the Bundesliga calendar. They may have taken the pitch knowing they would have to wait another week to officially clinch their crown, but that didn’t stop Bayern from putting on a show for their fans. Manager Peter Stoeger and his team have a lot of work to do to regain their confidence on the training pitch following the loss, and there is little chance at a reprieve on the horizon with fellow European hopefuls and a Rivierderby still on the schedule
Stoeger’s First Loss an Embarrassing One
Much has been made recently about Peter Stoeger’s 12 match unbeaten run in the Bundesliga as Dortmund manager, but that ended in a big way on Saturday with the embarrassing 6 goal defeat to Bayern Munich. The foundation on which Stoeger had rebuilt this side on following Peter Bosz’ disastrous reign was defence, but that was nowhere to be found in this match, as Bayern seemed to play through the Dortmund lines as if they weren’t even there. It is a tough ask for any side to go into the Allianz Arena and escape with points, but the match was over within the first quarter of an hour after James Rodriguez gave the Bavarians a two-goal cushion. The loss was the second multi-goal defeat to Bayern this season, and they have been outscored 9-1 in their two league matches.
Missing Marco and Omer
Dortmund may have been forced to get used to playing without Marco Reus over the years due to his chronic injury problems, but it doesn’t make it any easier when they lose their talisman for a big match, as Saturday’s was. His presence was sorely missed against Bayern, with the attack lacking both the pace and the creativity to trouble the Bayern defence. Reus is typically one of the most dangerous Dortmund players in Der Klassiker matches of seasons past, but he will now have to wait until next season to leave his mark on the biggest domestic match in Germany.
At the back, Omer Toprak was similarly missed, as Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Manuel Akanji were totally outmatched by the scintillating Bayern attack. Die Roten were able to draw the overly aggressive Sokratis all over the place, and even embarrassed two of the league’s elder statesmen at the back in Lukasz Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer with their irresistible attacking play. It is hard to say whether or not the two absentees could have had a significant impact on proceedings, but certainly it would have helped them deal with the onslaught of attacking talent on display at the Allianz. Toprak has been the best Dortmund defender this season, and Saturday proved just how essential he is to the recently solidified (and even more recently blown to pieces) defence.
The King of Der Klassiker
It might have been predictable given the score line and the way he usually plays against his old club, but with his hat trick on Saturday, Robert Lewandowski became the all-time leading goalscorer in the history of Der Klassiker with 17. He has now officially surpassed the legendary Gerd Muller (14) for the honour, and should he depart this summer, that is where the new high-water mark will stay. Lewandowski has been a constant presence in the fixture since arriving first in Dortmund in 2010 from Polish side Lech Poznan and now with Bayern Munich since the summer of 2014. He has grown into the league’s most prolific and complete striker in the years since leaving his native Poland, 4 times finishing as the top scorer in the Bundesliga and winning 5 titles, 2 with Dortmund and 3 with Bayern. It is rather unfortunate for Dortmund that even now, nearly a half decade on from selling Lewandowski to Bayern, few players in Europe put in such consistently good performances against their former team as he does, and it has caused a tremendous amount of suffering for die Schwarzgelben.
Champions League Far From Guaranteed
With Dortmund’s humiliating loss on Saturday, and Schalke’s victory earlier in the day, Bayern Munich will have to wait another week before their league title becomes official. However, the loss has much worse implications for Dortmund, who slipped to 4 points behind Schalke for 2nd place, just 3 points above 5th place and the non-Champions League places. The loss has now placed a premium on their remaining 6 fixtures, 4 of which come against teams in the top 8 of the table, including fellow top 4 clubs Schalke and Leverkusen. Should Dortmund drop points in any of these matches, they run the risk of losing control of their own European destiny and falling out of a place altogether. Mercifully, Reus and Toprak should both be back within the next couple weeks, but it may still be too early for one or both of them to return next weekend when they take on Stuttgart. Schalke follows a week later on the 15th, and Peter Stoeger will be determined to have his best defender and attacker back for the Rivierderby, especially one with so much at stake.
The Natural Order Undisturbed
One of the sad realities of the Bundesliga since Jurgen Klopp’s penultimate season in Dortmund is that it is a league thoroughly dominated by one team. The German top flight may escape much of the mockery that Ligue 1 in France gets for the gulf in class between the best team and the rest, it has been since 2012 that any team other than die Roten has won the league. With 27 league titles in their history (second place Nurnburg is 18 behind, with Dortmund in 3rd with 8), this is more or less the way it tends to be in Bundesliga history.
For years now, the only team to seriously challenge the dominant Bayern is Dortmund, but Saturday’s match shows that the gap between the two is anything but shrinking. At the beginning of the season, dressing room unrest and a growing disparity between Bayern’s transfer policy and the other truly elite teams in world football gave the impression that a giant might be falling. With Dortmund’s raging hot start to the season under Peter Bosz putting them into the drivers seat early on, it was almost impossible to imagine that the league would end up here, with Bayern Munich 17 points above its nearest challenger, walking away easily with yet another title. They may have to replace some ageing talent over the next couple of seasons, and Jupp Heynckes is not the long term solution at manager, but this season’s dominating performance and the signing of Leon Goretzka on a free from the league runner up after this season shows the road to the Bundesliga crown still goes through Bavaria.