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Bundesliga

Is the Bundesliga title race already over?

After a weekend where Bayern Munich were the only side in the top seven to win, it's looking increasingly likely they'll claim their fifth straight title. But is it really a done deal? Two of DW's reporters discuss.

It's done and dusted - Matt Ford

When RasenBallsport Leipzig topped the league for three weeks before the winter break, many were happy to forget the controversial issues surrounding the newly promoted club because for the first time in years, the Bundesliga finally had a title race.

Comfortable victories over Mainz and Bremen were complemented by impressive, mature performances against Leverkusen and Schalke. The football was equally attractive. Intense pressing and rapid transitions in a streamlined 4-2-2-2 - a formation replicated throughout RB's youth teams were easy on the eye. This was modern football planned and implemented on a scientific scale. Surely even Bayern Munich couldn't cope with this new order?

But cope they have. Not only did they beat the new pretenders comfortably in December, Bayern are once again demonstrating their mastery of that indefinable quality present in every title-winning team - the ability to win consistently, even when not playing well.

When Bayern's challengers encounter problems, they invariably lose. Borussia Dortmund's young side collapsed in the face of aggressive opposition in Leverkusen and Frankfurt, and slipped up again this weekend in Darmstadt. When Leipzig traveled to Dortmund without Timo Werner, Emil Forsberg and Marcel Sabitzer, the 1-0 defeat flattered them. Hamburg's deeper-lying defense, marshaled by the outstanding Kyriakos Papadopoulos during this weekend's 3-0 win, may come to be a blueprint for Leipzig's opponents.

Bundesliga SC Freiburg - Bayern München (Reuters/K. Pfaffenbach)

Bayern have won late in Hamburg, Ingolstadt and here in Freiburg

Yet when Bayern looked like slipping up away at Hamburg on Matchday 5, Joshua Kimmich won it late on. Just when we were about to heap praise on Freiburg for a well-deserved draw, up popped Robert Lewandowski with a moment of sheer brilliance. And when Ingolstadt thought they had earned a point this weekend, Arturo Vidal and Arjen Robben scored in added time. It's not a Bayern-Dusel - or "Bayern luck" - when it happens so often.

There is still a long way to go, and Bayern will, of course, have their Champions League duties to deal with - extra burdens their challengers don't have. Bayern also have to fight on multiple fronts with one of the league's smallest squads. But the experienced Carlo Ancelotti was brought in to manage in precisely these circumstances.

RB Leipzig's time will come. Whether we agree with the commercial nature of the club or not, Ralf Rangnick and Ralph Hasenhüttl have the philosophy, facilities, structures and finances at their disposal to win the Bundesliga eventually. The same applies to Borussia Dortmund, a young side who have had too much expectation heaped upon them.

But for the time being, it's Bayern Munich who have a seven-point lead at the top as we enter the business-end of the season. The champions have been here before and are only going to get stronger. It could be over already.

 

It's not over yet - Matt Pearson

Fußball Bundesliga RB Leipzig v Eintracht Frankfurt

RB Leipzig have fallen away slightly after a strong start to the season

There's no point in denying that Bayern are the overwhelming favorites to wrap up their fifth-straight title, but there are plenty of reasons to suggest there's life at the top of the table yet.

Borussia Dortmund were thought to have been the main threat to Bavarian supremacy at the start of the season, but their dismal showing at Darmstadt confirms that they aren't ready. Leipzig also lost on Saturday but Ralph Hassenhüttl's side should not be written off. Certainly not in February.

Any team that can put together a half-season as strong as the Red Bulls is a contender. They were poor on Saturday and against Bayern before Christmas, but they have been robbed of some of their star performers as injuries and suspensions took their toll.

Bayern do have a small squad, meaning they could well struggle with absentees themselves as we move towards the final straight. Should Carlo Ancelotti's side progress as they hope - and their fans expect - to the finals of the Champions League and the German Cup, Bayern will play 10 more games than Leipzig. While they are well stocked in some areas of the pitch (particularly on the wings), there are still some players who are genuinely irreplaceable. They have no striker in the class of Robert Lewandowski and no keeper anywhere near Manuel Neuer, few sides do.

As serene as Bayern's progress looks on paper, there's little doubt they aren't exactly firing on all cylinders, Neuer admitted as much earlier in the week. Their experience is getting them over the line at the minute. It may not be entirely a "fluke" but it's also hard to believe it's sustainable. Of course, any fallibility that Bayern show is irrelevant unless Leipzig go on another run, but they've already proved they are capable of sustained title-winning form.

The champions have a relatively sedate run of fixtures leading up to April, but then have tough assignments against Leverkusen and Dortmund sandwiched either side of a potential Champions League quarterfinal first leg. Then they have to travel to Leipzig on the penultimate matchday. If the young upstarts from the east can keep their more illustrious rivals in striking distance until then, they - and fans of genuine competition - have a glimmer of hope.

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