With nine games to go in the season, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have the same points total. But one look at their respective games on matchday 25 shows how different these two sides are.
Borussia Dortmund, a young team in a title race perhaps a season or two earlier than expected, are desperately trying to adapt to being in the position they are in.
Bayern Munich, winners of the last six straight league titles, are returning to recognizably brutal form despite being under the stewardship of a head coach to whom all of this is new.
The Bundesliga title race is on, and it's glorious. On matchday 25, Dortmund hosted relegation-threatened Stuttgart at the same time as Bayern hosted in-form Wolfsburg. Ultimately, both sides won, but the manner of the victories couldn't have been more contrasting.
Dortmund's game was charged from the start. With Marco Reus, Mario Götze and Paco Alcacer, Dortmund surged forward. The hope from the home fans was audible. Each neat combination brought them closer to the goal, but didn't end in a goal. Reus saw a shot blocked and Götze fired over. And then came the rain.
Down in Munich, Bayern were not free of a few sloppy moments early on but looked composed and confident. The recently dropped Germany trio of Thomas Müller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng all started and looked keen to prove a point.
Dortmund couldn't get close enough to goal, so tried from range. At the same time as Jadon Sancho saw his effort palmed wide by Ron-Robert Zieler, Bayern glided into the area to take the lead. Joshua Kimmich dinked into the box, fed Müller wide who crossed low for Serge Gnabry and the 23-year-old stole in front of Wolfsburg's defenders to poke home. Three minutes later, Gnabry turned provided for Robert Lewandowski as Bayern scored a beautiful second.
Difference grows in second half
Unaware of Bayern's comfort, but just frustrated by their own inability to lead, Dortmund's frustration started to appear. Santiago Ascacibar got up in Götze's face after the latter won a free kick. Raphael Guerreiro tested Zieler but again it was from range and again it was saved. Like a teenager fighting back the tears of insecurity, Dortmund continued their search for a goal.In Munich, just seven minutes after the restart, James curled in a beautiful third before dancing in the corner with teammate Rafinha. Dortmund and Munich are just over 600 kilometers apart, but it felt like worlds at the point.
With the rain still falling, Reus delivered some remarkable control, using the sole of his boot, but Guerreiro could only fire over. Then Dortmund were awarded a penalty. With the help of VAR, it was clear that Sancho's feet were just too quick for Stuttgart. Marco Reus stepped up. The captain, the heartbeat of this team, hammered home. It was a reward for the home side's efforts, but relief was there too.
But that relief saw Dortmund pause for breath and Stuttgart sensed it. Suddenly Dortmund were battling again. Reus was booked, then so was Marius Wolf as the makeshift right back gave away a needless foul in a dangerous spot. Up popped, Marc-Oliver Kempf and Stuttgart were level.
As news of the goal in Dortmund came through in the Allianz Arena, the cheers were louder than they had been at any point that afternoon. As things stood, Bayern were back at the top of the Bundesliga.
Despite the rain, the wind, the equalizer, the fear of what a draw would mean, Dortmund kept fighting. Alcacer's free kick was saved brilliantly by Zieler. Was it going to be one of those days? It was in Munich, for Bayern. Müller added a fourth after an assist from sub Franck Ribery, who delivered a cameo like it was 2013.
Back in Dortmund, Stuttgart defender Andreas Beck tapped his temples. Focus was the message. A point for Stuttgart would be huge in their fight against relegation. Seven minutes were left. Dortmund sent in a cross, a goalmouth scramble ensued, and then it fell to Alcacer. The Spaniard didn't take a touch. He just hit it, and when the net bulged, the stadium erupted. It felt like the winning goal in a cup final.
Meanwhile, Kimmich and Lewandowski added two more in Munich to make the final score 6-0 to Bayern. Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge clapped and smiled broadly in the stands. The home fans showered their players with praise. Bayern were buoyant. Dortmund were still playing.
In added time, Axel Witsel summoned the energy from somewhere to set up Götze, who in turn found sub Christian Pulisic. The American, who has endured more than enjoyed this season, neatly diverted home the pass and Dortmund had three goals to accompany three points. Relief washed over BVB, and their fans. The game had been won, but it had been a fight.
Pure drama should make for grand finale
One side battled for their victory, the other strolled to theirs. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, and both wins mean a great deal for two different teams.
For a young Dortmund side to have beaten an uncomfortable, feisty opponent fighting for their right to stay in the league is a huge psychological boost, especially after recent weeks. They're not supposed to be here, but now they are they're desperate to take their chance.
For Bayern to dispatch of their opponents with an ease considered lost under their new head coach is equally impressive. They've been here before, but winning the title having been 9 points back would be one of the great moments even in Bayern's history.
Which approach will lead to the title is unknown. History suggests it is now Bayern's to lose, even though the pair meet in Munich on April 6. However it ends, with nine games to go, this title race is delivering in a way the Bundesliga has not seen in years.