Opinion: Bundesliga title race better than Premier League's
At 16:37 on Saturday, Borussia Dortmund's Marwin Hitz thought he'd let the Bundesliga title slip through his fingers. The backup keeper, making only his second league appearance of the season, allowed Oliver Fink's tame header to squirm through his grasp and hand Fortuna Düsseldorf a second-half equalizer at Signal Iduna Park.
At 16:40 his mistake looked as if it may turn out to be irrelevant after Leon Goretzka gave Bayern Munich the lead nearly 440 kilometers (265 miles) east in Leipzig. Three minutes later, Hitz was off the hook after Goretzka's goal was ruled out for the most fractional of offsides in the buildup while Thomas Delaney simultaneously restored Dortmund's lead. Then Hitz gave away a penalty and the hook was back in. Dodi Lukebakio scuffed it wide, the Swiss stopper wriggled free again. Bayern never found the breakthrough.
That 10 minutes of gaffes, goals, chaos and controversy was the Bundesliga title race in a microcosm. Thrilling, unpredictable, error strewn, nervy and fun, for the neutral anyway. Dortmund are a team packed with talent but prone to panic while Bayern are a hulking, creaking machine hoping a bit of oil will allow them to make it through to the next big service, where some major cogs will be replaced.
In contrast, the two sides that will do battle for the Premier League title on Sunday are an object study in the near-elimination of flaws. The UAE-backed Manchester City 'project' has handed one of the world's best coaches several of the world's best players. Predictably brilliant domestic results have followed. A point below them, Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool have spent about €150 million ($169m) on Virgil van Dijk and Alisson in the last 18 months to fix the defensive issues that once undermined them.
The overwhelming expectation is that Pep Guardiola's City side will, sooner or later, overwhelm Brighton on Sunday, rendering Liverpool's likely home win over Wolves meaningless. The top two in England have won 81 percent of their games this season, compared to the German pair's 68 percent. Since City last failed to win, Dortmund have dropped 17 points. If the Champions League wasn't proof enough, there's no comparison in quality.
But quality isn't always what matters. Where the Premier League title tussle has been like a carefully-crafted, exquisitely-sourced gourmet meal in the fanciest restaurant in town, the Bundesliga's been the unpretentious backstreet cafe with brilliant food, spectacular service, just the right atmosphere and a surprisingly reasonable bill.
Both have their place but, for my money at least, that cafe sounds much more fun. And that's what the Bundesliga has been this term. Sure, Bayern have enjoyed a brilliant and consistent second half of the season while Dortmund enjoyed a great start, but what's made this title race so much fun is the unexpected slip ups: Bayern drawing with doomed Nuremberg after BVB had all but handed them the Meisterschale by losing the derby the day before, both sides dropping points to Augsburg and a healthy smattering of late game implosions and individual errors.
By contrast, though some games have been tougher than others, the late stages of the Premier League race have been a dual procession. In an astonishing display of relentless excellence and mentality, City and Liverpool have both won their last eight games when it matters most.
Both teams are rightly lauded. Of course, those of us that love football want to see the best. But we also want drama, plot twists, suspense, jeopardy and calamity. Whoever wins the Bundesliga next weekend, we've certainly had that.