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Bundesliga breathes again as Bayern lose

Bayern Munich's loss to Leverkusen on Sunday sent a wave of relief across the rest of the league - Jupp Heynckes' men are fallible after all. But it's more likely to be a blip than a dip.

MUNICH, GERMANY - OCTOBER 27: (L-R) Jerome Boateng and Claudio Pizarro of Bayern look dejected after losing 1-2 the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Allianz Arena on October 27, 2012 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

FC Bayern Muenchen - Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Bayern Munich put the lie to the platitude that the Bundesliga is the fairest top league in Europe. Routinely described by pundits as the "record champions," because they've won the Bundesliga title 21 of a possible 49 times, Bayern's form is normally the decisive factor in any given season - if they have a good one, they'll win it, if they have a bad one, they'll probably win it, and if things go really badly, well, then the dogs are allowed to scrap over it.

This season, though, for the first time since perhaps 2007-08, when they lost only twice and ended the championship ten points clear of their closest rivals, Bayern appeared to have built an unstoppable juggernaut. Possibly fuelled by the bitter grievance of last season's bizarre Champions League final in their home stadium, Bayern came out of the blocks in August in a proper rage, scoring 26 and conceding two in their first eight games - it was a record-breaking 100-percent record.

Helped partly by new attacking signings, particularly the Bundesliga's current top scorer Mario Mandzukic, Bayern looked an unstoppable machine - a terminator among puny humans - but one driven by the gnawing failure of those second place finishes in three competitions last season.

Bayern vs. Schalke game +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++ pixel

Bayern have been in imperious form this season

If they can do it

All things considered then, one can't help but agree with Bayern Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who said after Sunday's shock defeat to Leverkusen, that "the league will be glad. Now we have to show that we can deal with the pressure better than we did last year."

He was right on both counts. The rest of the clubs in the league will be lifted by the fact that, of all clubs, it was Leverkusen - who had not won in Munich since 1989 - who managed to blot Bayern's perfect copybook. "If they can do it, so can we," coaches around the country will be thinking.

Bayern's lead at the top of the table, usually extended because all the other clubs take points off each other, is suddenly only four. That doesn't sound too bad. Second-placed Schalke have just completed a glorious week - beating Dortmund, Arsenal, and Nuremberg in the space of eight days - and are looking stronger every match day.

Promoted, over-achieving Eintracht Frankfurt are also only two wins behind Bayern, despite losing to a reinvigorated Stuttgart on Sunday. Even the nine-point gap to Dortmund in fourth doesn't look insurmountable anymore, the ever-positive Jürgen Klopp will be thinking. After all, they were eight points behind the Bavarians in autumn 2011.

Of course, Bayern's defeat also amplified the value of Dortmund's successful slog through the snow of Freiburg on Saturday. The champions will have gained a lot of confidence in completing a win in borderline unplayable conditions, where they had to abandon their neat triangular passing moves in favor of direct long balls. "Back in the day, we wouldn't have been allowed outside to play football in this weather because mom wouldn't have allowed it" Klopp quipped afterwards. "Today we had to."

MUNICH, GERMANY - AUGUST 16: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, CEO of Bayern Muenchen talks to guest during Hans-Wilhelm Mueller Wohlfahrts' 70th birthday celebration at Seehaus on August 16, 2012 in Munich, Germany. Photo by Alexander Hassenstein dpa

Rummenigge says everything depends on dealing with pressure

Dealing with pressure

On top of this, as Rummenigge's comment made clear, if last season taught us anything, it's that Bayern can crumble under the weight of expectation. Talent and class oozes through the side in a way that even Dortmund can't match, but if you have so much of it that you are expected to win every single game, any loss is a devastation.

But although a lot will depend on how Bayern react, this also means that defeats get more weight than they warrant. Taken in isolation, the result against Leverkusen was definitely freakish. Bayern dominated most of the game, taking 62 percent of possession, had 25 shots on goal to Leverkusen's five, and took 14 corners to Leverkusen's two.

And the guests' winning goal was not a dazzling passing move or a moment of individual genius - it was a slapstick joke. The ball almost certainly wouldn't have gone in if Sidney Sam's attempt at goal hadn't been so hopelessly clumsy that it bounced off Jerome Boateng's face. As Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer put it later, "We practically smacked the goals in ourselves."

And while Leverkusen defended with impressive determination, Bayern also managed to hit the woodwork several times. There was nothing tactically wrong with Bayern's approach. It just wasn't their day. So while the "record champions" may have offered a lifeline to the rest of the Bundesliga on Sunday, there seems no reason why the juggernaut won't keep rolling along.

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