Bayern Munich’s relentless pursuit of Borussia Dortmund has set up what promises to be a thrilling end to the Bundesliga season.
A 5-1 victory at Borussia Monchengladbach over the weekend was a huge statement of intent from Bayern and took them level on points with the long-time leaders.
Dortmund’s 2-1 defeat at Augsburg opened the door for Bayern and was one of the most surprising developments in European soccer leagues this term.
The two sides are currently locked together on 54 points with 10 games to play and Munich are now big favourites to win their seventh successive title.
Dortmund appear to have gone off the boil over the past few weeks, winning just one of their last five league matches. By contrast, Bayern have won 11 of their last 12 games to crank up the pressure at the top of the table.
Both sides have a winnable run of fixtures scheduled over the next few weeks, meaning they could still be level on points when they go head-to-head in Munich at the start of April.
Dortmund face Stuttgart (H), Hertha Berlin (A) and Wolfsburg (H) before the big clash at the Allianz Arena, and they will fancy their chances of picking up maximum points from that run of games.
Fixtures against Wolfsburg (H), Mainz (H) and Freiburg (A) also look favourable for Bayern, setting up what should be an enthralling encounter at the Allianz Arena.
Dortmund will take plenty of heart from their performance in the reverse fixture, where they recovered from 2-1 down to secure a thrilling 3-2 victory.
Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring against his former club, before Marco Reus fired Dortmund level from the penalty spot. Lewandowski headed Bayern back in front, but goals by Reus and Paco Alcacer won it for Dortmund.
That result left Bayern seven points adrift of Dortmund after just 11 games, but they have improved considerably since then to draw level with their title rivals.
Bayern’s history of success over the past few seasons makes them a force to be reckoned with, although Dortmund’s slightly easier run-in could tip the scales in their favour.
Lucien Favre’s side must face Mainz (H), Freiburg (A), Schalke (H), Werder Bremen (A), Fortuna Dusseldorf (H) and Monchengladbach (A) and they will fancy their chances of grabbing a healthy points haul from that run of games.
If Dortmund can take at least a point from their meeting with Bayern they certainly would be well-placed to come out on top in the title battle.
Bayern’s run-in after the Dortmund match includes games against Fortuna (A), Bremen (H), Nurnberg (A) and Hannover (H).
However, with Bayern’s final two fixtures coming against teams currently chasing a Champions League spot in RB Leipzig (A) and Eintracht Frankfurt (H) they could find it difficult to topple the current leaders.
Dortmund’s exit from the Champions League against Tottenham Hotspur may also work in their favour, especially if Bayern progress further by beating Liverpool.
Fatigue can be a major factor as the campaign reaches the business end and Dortmund could well benefit from Bayern’s continued involvement in Europe.
There is likely to be little to choose between the two sides in the final reckoning, but Dortmund’s slightly easier run-in means they have a glorious opportunity to win their ninth league title.