Will the Bundesliga finally crown a new champion?

As entertaining as the Bundesliga can be, fans have had to come to terms with the monotony at the top of the league, with Bayern Munich having won 10 consecutive championships since 2012. However, 2023 could be the year Bayern’s grip is finally broken.

Matchday 22 will see Bayern meet Union Berlin in the battle for first against third. Bayern, Union and Borussia Dortmund are all level on points, with the Bavarians only leading on goal difference. There are also three teams behind the trio who remain close at hand and could capitalize on any slippage from Bayern.

In short, the battle for championship trophy hasn’t been this close in a while. Here’s where the title contenders stand with 13 rounds of matches remaining.

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (US)
– Leipzig vs. Eintracht: Saturday, 9:30 a.m. ET, live stream on ESPN+
– Bayern vs. Union: Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, live stream on ESPN+

1. Bayern Munich | 43 dots | +40 goal differential

A Bayern side that have had quite a few misfires this season is the main reason why the title fight is as close as it is. At first, the team had to get used to the tactical changes that head coach Julian Nagelsmann had planned over the summer, with Bayern moving away from their wing-focused style in favor of a team structure. closer attack. At the same time, the departure of Robert Lewandowski left a void up front which Nagelsmann struggled to fill for some time. He tested Sadio Mane in the forward role but soon moved the Liverpool signing to his familiar position on the left wing. Eventually, 33-year-old Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, an unlikely contender, secured 9th place from Bayern’s roster.

Several key players have also struggled for periods of the season, whether due to poor form or injury. Before the World Cup, much of the attacking burden fell on Jamal Musiala’s shoulders, and the teenager showed time and time again that he could lead Bayern to victory, but rely mostly on him not is not the recipe for consistent success.

The inconsistency in Bayern’s performance continued after a rocky winter break in which captain Manuel Neuer broke his right leg in a skiing accident and the turmoil played out on the pitch. coaching. Nagelsmann seemed almost to lose control of a locker room full of big egos. Fittingly, Bayern drew three games in a row after the campaign restarted and suffered their second league defeat last Saturday as Borussia Mönchengladbach beat them 3-2 – Dayot Upamecano’s red card in the first 10 minutes set the tone for a difficult day. .

Collecting nine points from six games since the restart has left the door open for five potential championship challengers.

2. Borussia Dortmund | 43 dots | +17 goals difference

Borussia Dortmund haven’t been so confident they could beat Bayern for a while. This season has already thrown some wrenches into the works, including Sebastien Haller’s testicular cancer diagnosis in July, which sidelined the striker until January. Manager Edin Terzic has always found a way to make his attack work, with Dortmund scoring 44 goals in 21 league appearances despite the absence of a dominant No.9 like Erling Haaland the previous two years.

After the winter break, BVB have won all eight of their competitive games thanks in part to a flexible attack and key players such as Jude Bellingham, Julian Brandt and Nico Schlotterbeck approaching peak form. Nonetheless, Dortmund remain prone to setbacks mainly in the form of injuries, which became apparent again in their last 4-1 win over Hertha Berlin when winger Karim Adeyemi had to leave the pitch with a hamstring tear. -legs after scoring the first goal and assisting another.

3. Union Berlin | 43 dots | +11 goal difference

While a ninth Bundesliga title for Dortmund wouldn’t be seen as a complete upheaval of the order, the fact that Union Berlin are even in the title hunt can be seen as a huge surprise. Some might compare a potential championship trophy to Leicester City’s Premier League triumph in 2015-16, but the difference is Union don’t have a young version of N’Golo Kante or a streaky goalscorer like Jamie Vardy. In fact, Union is mostly an assembly of more veteran outcasts who have been thrown a lifeline in the eastern part of the German capital.

The fiery crowd inside the imposing Alte Foersterei saw the resurrection of Robin Knoche, Janik Haberer and many more. The latest example is Kevin Behrens, a striker who, aged 30, signed a free transfer to second division side SV Sandhausen in 2021 and managed to claim a place in the Union starting XI . Stories like hers make you believe that miracles are possible.

It remains to be seen if Union have enough stamina to last until the last day and if manager Urs Fischer has enough tactical ideas to impose his pressing football on many remaining opponents, but qualify for the League of Nations. champions would be a huge success for a club working on a relatively small budget.

4. SC Freiburg | 40 dots | +3 goals difference

Similar words can be said about Freiburg. They may be a household name in the German top flight, but their frequent presence in the top third of the table is a commendable achievement nonetheless. The mastermind behind the success for more than 11 years is manager Christian Streich, whose tenure as head coach is the second longest in Europe’s top leagues. Its high octane football hasn’t changed much over time and could provide the model for what a Bundesliga side on a budget should look like these days, the philosophy and commitment to this respect being more important than the individual quality of each member of the team.

The downside is that Freiburg are prone to catastrophic defeats if their system doesn’t have the intended effect on opponents, which was the case in recent weeks when they lost 6-0 to VfL Wolfsburg and 5-1 against Dortmund. However, in the long run, Streich’s teams are able to stay competitive and struggle against many Bundesliga teams. They may not win the league but could very well qualify for next year’s Champions League.

5. RB Leipzig | 39 dots | +17 goals difference

In many ways, Leipzig is the opposite of Union and Freiburg. The Red Bull-funded club have been eyeing a Championship for some time, although the top brass usually act modestly when asked about possible title aspirations.

This year’s squad is arguably Leipzig’s most talented since being promoted in 2016. With Christopher Nkunku and Konrad Laimer likely to leave this summer, manager Marco Rose wants to make the most of the remaining time with the two. His side started the second half of the season promisingly before suffering a defeat against Union Berlin at home two weeks ago. They may be four points behind the top three, but they have enough quality to close the gap.

That said, Leipzig’s next two games could determine whether or not they stay in the title hunt as they first face Eintracht Frankfurt before heading to Dortmund. After Rose replaced Domenico Tedesco in September, the former FC Salzburg boss has found a way to capitalize on the intensity and vertical style of his key players, building a team that can outrun almost anyone in another and get behind the back line to create chances. Leipzig’s biggest weakness for years, however, and regardless of manager, has been that they struggle to close games when up front. Champions are able to do just that.

6. Eintracht Frankfurt | 38 dots | +13 goal differential

The 2022 Europa League winners should be looking up in the table instead of watching the chasing pack from a distance, but it would take a lot to come together to see Frankfurt rival Bayern and Dortmund. Manager Oliver Glasner has assembled a team around 30-year-old playmaker Mario Gotze and France striker Randal Kolo Muani who boasts of thrilling football.

However, the excitement can sometimes fade when Frankfurt seem overwhelmed, which they were when they lost 3-0 to FC Cologne two weeks ago. The team’s greatest strength is the fact that they rarely lose faith in themselves, with Glasner being a thoughtful leader who knows how to handle the various characters in his locker room. Frankfurt may not be celebrating their first championship since 1959, but they are building a foundation that could establish them in the top group of the Bundesliga for the next decade or more.

Such predictions are dangerous in this league, however, as Frankfurt, Freiburg and Union may well lose some of their best players for the foreseeable future and could then be tasked with finding suitable replacements. That’s why Bundesliga fans should just enjoy the rest of this season. Bayern look vulnerable while several other teams are eager to take their place, if only temporarily.

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