Bundesliga Title Race Heats Up With Borussia Dortmund Top, Not Bayern Munich

Five matches for a “salad bowl.”

The Bundesliga title race looks set to go to the final day of the season with only one point separating league leader Borussia Dortmund and 10-time defending champion Bayern Munich.

The winner will receive the “Meisterschale” (champion’s bowl), which is commonly referred to as the “salad bowl” because of its appearance.

In recent years, Bayern has usually had the bowl in the bag by now. With the exception of 2019, the title race hasn’t been this close at this stage since 2010, when Louis van Gaal’s Bayern team had just taken a one-point lead over Schalke with a 2-1 win over the then-league leaders in Gelsenkirchen.

This time, the Bavarian powerhouse is in the unaccustomed role of being a point behind.

Bayern enjoyed a 4-2 win over Dortmund in Munich on April 1 but has been misfiring since. It was one of only two wins Bayern has managed in seven games in all competitions since Thomas Tuchel was appointed coach. 

The decision to fire his predecessor, Julian Nagelsmann, and the team’s subsequent poor form — and Champions League and German Cup exits — has piled pressure on Bayern chief executive Oliver Kahn and sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić. Both of their jobs are reportedly under threat.

Such is Bayern’s predicament that former club president Uli Hoeneß spoke with Tuchel before training on Wednesday. Kicker magazine reported that the men spoke for about 15 minutes and that Hoeneß became very animated at times before he left Tuchel to oversee practice.

Dortmund has overcome its own troubles to take over on top. The team coached by Eden Terzić missed previous opportunities to capitalize on Bayern’s weaknesses, but finally seized its chance last weekend when Mainz defeated Bayern 3-1. With the lead in the standings beckoning, Dortmund responded by beating Eintracht Frankfurt 4-0.

Dortmund can stretch its lead to four points on Friday with a win at relegation-threatened Bochum in their local derby, while Bayern will hope to improve its poor record under Tuchel with a win over last-place Hertha Berlin in Munich on Saturday.

After Bochum, Dortmund has home games against Wolfsburg and Borussia Moenchengladbach, then Augsburg away, before ending with a home game against Mainz.

“There’s five really tough games to come, whichever way you look at it,” Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham said.

After Hertha, Bayern visits Werder Bremen, then has home games against Schalke and Leipzig before finishing the season in Cologne.

Bayern will likely need to win every game to avoid the ignominy of finishing the season without a trophy.

“We can still be German champion, anything is possible, and we won’t slack off a millimeter,” Kahn said after the loss in Mainz. “You need belief and sometimes it just takes a moment for it to come back. We have to give ourselves a shake, see that we get back into form.”

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