It’s been a while since Bayern Munich last had to chase a deficit in the Bundesliga title race this deep into the season.
Last week’s Champions League elimination at the hands of Manchester City made the Bavarians’ domestic title run-in all the more significant, but Thomas Tuchel’s side failed to respond accordingly.
The record-time German champions bowed out of two of the three competitions they were chasing out when Tuchel succeeded Julian Nagelsmann at the helm at the start of April.
Fast forward three weeks and Bayern could be on the verge of relinquishing their ten-year reign of the Bundesliga after surrendering the top spot to Borussia Dortmund last weekend.
Despite picking up a 1-0 half-time lead through Sadio Mane, Tuchel’s side slumped to a morale-crushing 3-1 defeat at full-time, making it two league games without a win.
Dortmund had an opportunity to leapfrog Bayern at the summit a fortnight ago, yet they could only manage a goal-glutted 3-3 draw at relegation-fighting Stuttgart.
However, Die Borussen made no mistake this time, as they humbled Eintracht Frankfurt 4-0 at Signal Iduna Park to take a one-point lead on the Bavarians at the Bundesliga summit.
With five matchdays left and Bayern looking up the creek without a paddle, Edin Terzic’s side will dare to dream they can finally overthrow the Munich outfit’s ten-year tenure.
Saturday’s demolition of Die Adler was Dortmund’s eighth consecutive league triumph at home – form that’s provided the backbone for Die Borussen’s push for their first Bundesliga title since 2011/12.
It’s not like they weren’t pushing Bayern in recent years, but lapses in concentration down the final stretches often saw them pull away from the title race when it mattered the most.
But after three runner-up finishes in the last four seasons, Terzic’s men seem to have learnt from their mistakes and now look well-prepared to bring the Meisterschale back to the Ruhr.
Let’s look at what’s next for the two most storied German clubs.
It’s not the first time Dortmund have pipped Bayern to the top place in 2023.
Die Borussen steamrolled to the Bundesliga summit following an outrageous ten-game unbeaten run to start the new calendar year, including nine victories, before being thrashed in April’s Der Klassiker.
Unfazed by a 4-2 rout on Tuchel’s touchline debut, Terzic’s lads have picked up seven points in the last three Bundesliga rounds to set themselves up nicely for a winnable-looking trip to Bochum on Friday.
It’s one of the most breathtaking title run-ins in the recent history of Germany’s top flight, and if you don’t want to miss out on the latest updates, you can watch live Bundesliga games, including Dortmund’s trip to Die Unabsteigbare.
Pinned to the lower reaches since the get-go, Thomas Letsch’s men are only two points clear of the red zone after alternating between draws and defeats in their last four league outings.
Although they’ll be fighting for their lives when the two sides lock horns at the Vonovia Ruhrstadion, Dortmund should take all three points in this mini local derby.
Consecutive home encounters against downtrodden Wolfsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach should guarantee six points, considering Die Borussen’s imperious home form against both sides.
While they’ve beaten Wolfsburg in their last four league H2Hs at Signal Iduna Park by an aggregate score of 13-1, they’ve emerged victorious in eight straight top-flight home meetings with Gladbach.
Terzic’s team may have to put in an effort when they head down to Bavaria to trade tackles with out-of-sorts Augsburg, who have often proved a thorn in Dortmund’s side at the WWK Arena.
If they get a result at Augsburg, Die Borussen should cruise to the title when they welcome Mainz on the final matchday.
Many people thought Bayern’s patchy new year form culminated with Nagelsmann’s dismissal, but Tuchel has failed to steady the ship, leading to the team’s further downfall.
Time is running out for the former Chelsea boss to undo the damage and get the Bavarians’ title pursuit back on course, with Hertha Berlin’s visit to Munich coming next.
Anything other than three points against season-long relegation contenders would be a disaster, especially if Dortmund can capitalise on any potential Bayern slip-up.
But the fixture schedule could favour the Munich side, as they will meet bottom-half strugglers Werder Bremen and Schalke 04 on the road and at home, respectively.
Victories in those matches should oil Tuchel’s broken machine for a mouth-watering home clash against top-four hopefuls RB Leipzig on the penultimate matchday.
However, a failed attempt to beat Die Roten Bullen may render Bayern’s trip to Cologne in the final round meaningless, provided Dortmund held up their end of the bargain in the meantime.