Lucien Favre must be one of the most underrated managers in world football. Despite never having won a trophy outside of Switzerland, in the last decade he has guided both Borussia Mochengladbach and Nice to the Champions League for the first time in their clubs’ history, turning mid-table dwellers into elite competitors.
Dortmund however, are far from a mid-table dweller. Since the 2009/10 season, only once have BVB finished outside the top four in Germany, though since their Champions League final loss to Bayern in 2013, they have dropped off the pace both on the domestic and the European front, while the Bayern juggernaut has ploughed on relentlessly.
But things seem to be changing this season. After a disappointing and sketchy 2017/18, Dortmund have flown out from the blocks this year, winning six of their first eight Bundesliga games and all three of their Champions League ties including a 4-0 demolition of Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night. In their last seven games they have scored 30 goals which includes a 3-0 dismantling of Monaco and a 4-2 comeback win over Bayer Leverkusen.
It’s not hard to see why they’re performing so well. Their squad has the perfect blend of experienced heads – Marco Reus, Axel Witsel, Mario Gotze, Marcel Schmelzer, Lukasz Piszczek and Paco Alcacer – and emerging talent – Jadon Sancho, Christian Pulisic, Jacob Larsen, Achraf Hakimi, Mahmoud Dahoud, Adbou Diallo, Julian Weigl and Dan-Axel Zagadou – all of who are 23 or under.
With so much quality, and strength in depth, it’s allowed them to compete on both fronts this season, without a hint of a fatigue. Sancho and Alcacer both scored in the 4-0 win over Stuttgart on Saturday, yet both didn’t start on Wednesday. Their team is so interchangeable, Pulisic needs a rest, Philipp comes in. Hakimi needs a rest, Guerreiro comes in. It’s the same across the board, and that’s not forgetting the likes of Sebastien Rode, Omer Toprak and Alexander Isak who haven’t kicked a ball this season. Shinji Kagawa and Mario Gotze have only played two games each.
And they’re playing some quite beautiful stuff too. Their second goal vs Atleti on Wednesday just epitomised their approach this season – sharp, quick, incisive – BVB have ripped teams apart time and time again this season with their one, two touch football and it feels very much like the Klopp days of old where they used to blow teams away in mesmeric style.
It’ll be interesting to see whether they can keep it up, though. Bayern’s start to life under Niko Kovac has been stodgy at best, and in the past month they have been humbled 3-0 at home by Monchedladbach and 2-0 away at Hertha Belin, but with all the talent as their possession, you’ve got to think that they’ll find some kind of form soon, even if that means cutting Niko Kovac loose. The bookies still see Bayern’s as favourites too – big time. With Betfred, the champs are 1/3 to retain the title. Dortmund in comparison are 11/4 despite their early four-point advantage over Bayern.
The xG (expected goals) stats are in Bayern’s favour, though. From their games so far this season, Bayern are expected to be around 1.5 points better off than they are, while Dortmund are expected to be over 5 points worse off than they are. Of course, this only based on stats, but it’ll be interesting to see whether this evens out over the rest of the campaign.
And Dortmund have at times looked shaky at the back this season which includes not fixing the goalkeeping issue which plagued them so evidently throughout 2017/18 – his error vs Augsburg is further indication that Burki still can’t be full relied upon.
Plus, of course, BVB have been here before. Dortmund won their first 11 games of Thomas Tuchel’s reign, but it wasn’t enough to keep on the tail of Bayern who romped away with the title, despite the fact that BVB only lost four games all year.
However, Bayern were a different proposition back then, and they have struggled to adapt to life post-Guardiola. Last season Jupp Heynckes bailed them out, but that surely can’t happen again. Bayern need to get used to Niko Kovac and fast, or else this dazzling Dortmund team might just halt the juggernaut.
The last six Bundesliga titles have all gone to the way of Bayern, though that run will have to end at some point. Maybe this really could be Dortmund’s year. There are plenty of caveats, but at 11/4, they really do seem like a good bet.
Written by Betting Circle