Better late than never! A principle that applies to both this article, which is coming out around 12 hours later than I intended thanks to my day job getting in the way, and to Augsburg’s 88th minute winner over Hoffenheim on Friday night. You see what I did there? I made an excuse for my shortcomings AND made it topical. This is the ideal article intro. You may not like it, but this is what peak journalism looks like.
Anyway, a bunch of stuff happened in the Bundesliga over the weekend, some of it really very interesting, like Schalke recording a fourth consecutive 0-0 draw in the Bundesliga, in an attempt to get themselves relegated in the driest way possible; Hoffenheim losing to Augsburg as they steadily drift into the relegation battle that Schalke are winning; and Mainz scoring a late penalty to claim all three points in a slobberknocker against Bayer Leverkusen.
But let's be honest, none of us really care about what is going on further down the Bundesliga table right now, because the only thing separating Borussia Dortmund from the top of the table is Bayern Munich’s (frankly totally absurd) +40 goal difference!
Here’s how Matchday 21 shaped up in the Bundesliga:
Augsburg 1-0 Hoffenheim
VfB Stuttgart 3-0 FC Köln
Borussia Monchengladbach 3-2 Bayern Munich
VfL Bochum 0-2 Freiburg
Wolfsburg 0-3 RB Leipzig
Frankfurt 2-0 Werder Bremen
Union Berlin 0-0 Schalke
Borussia Dortmund 4-1 Hertha Berlin
Bayer Leverkusen 2-3 Mainz
The Title Race Narrows Further
We’ve been gradually accepting that this might actually be a title race in the first six weeks of 2023, in an attempt to not get burnt by the inevitable Bayern Munich breakaway, but here we are almost two thirds of the way through the season with Bayern, BVB, and Union Berlin all level on 43 points at the top of the table.
Bayern Munich played Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday, a day before either Union or Borussia Dortmund. After a controversial red card for Dayot Upamecano (I think it was pretty soft but can see why the ref gave it and think it’s pretty difficult for VAR to overturn) in the opening moments of the game, Bayern were outnumbered and outplayed by a really good Gladbach performance, opening the door to the chasing pack to catch them on Sunday.
This was actually Union’s opportunity to go ahead of Bayern Munich and BVB, but they somehow managed to fluff their lines in a 0-0 draw against bottom of the table and extremely not very good Schalke.
No such problems for Borussia Dortmund though, who now sit in 2nd place trailing Bayern’s goal difference by 13, after a 4-1 win over Hertha Berlin.
Look, I’ve done my best to not get too excited about this excellent run of form, but it’s getting harder and harder as Bayern continue to struggle and both Dortmund and Union Berlin pile on the pressure. I’d obviously much prefer BVB to win the title, but frankly, I’d happily settle for an actual title race and Union Berlin being crowned champions. At this point I’m firmly in the “Anyone But Bayern” camp.
Here’s how FiveThirtyEight’s predictive model views things at the top of the Bundesliga table:
Their model is definitely far from perfect. I think the model is overrating Bayern Munich at the moment, and I think it’s probably overrating RB Leipzig a little bit too (and possibly underrating Union a touch), but it is useful to see these probabilities and temper expectations a little bit. Bayern Munich have proven time and again just how much of a difference their vast resource advantage makes. They will probably do the same this season too. But maybe now we can start to dream a little...
IS THIS A TITLE RACE?! ARE WE IN A TITLE RACE? SHOULD I BUY A LITTLE REPLICA MEISTERSCHALE PLATE TO CELEBRATE OUR IMMINENT BUNDESLIGA TITLE?