Arsène Wenger may claim his side have a chance of qualifying for the Champions League quarter finals. The truth is, they don’t. The Gunners first leg against Bayern Munich proved just how much stronger the Bavarians are. And even if the Bundesliga leaders may have stuttered ever so slightly at the weekend, Bayern still look the strongest side in Europe.
Now for this season’s Bayern, a stutter qualifies as a win – just not in the swashbuckling style that we have come to expect of the champions-elect. Their opponents on Saturday could count themselves unfortunate too. In the last two seasons, scoring twice against Bayern usually guarantees victory. So, poor old Fortuna Düsseldorf, who became the first away team to score two and not win a Bundesliga game at the Allianz Arena since Freiburg in October 2010. They can take solace in the fact they played a side on course to become the greatest team in Bundesliga history.
Coach Jupp Heynckes didn’t put out much of a weakened team on Saturday either. Even when you include injuries, Heynckes played a side which was just three players off what has become the acknowledged full strength team for Bayern this season – those missing being Holger Badstuber, Javi Martinez and perhaps the signing of the season, Dante.
Saturday was the first Bundesliga game the Brazilian centre back has not started this season as he was rested for Wednesday’s game against Arsenal. That there was a certain fragility to the Bayern defence against Fortuna was testament to the impact Dante has had since signing from Borussia Mönchengladbach in the summer.
Twice Fortuna Düsseldorf took the lead (sparking wild, yet understandable celebrations in the away end of the stadium ) and, when they did so for a second time through Andreas Lambertz’s strike, just 18 minutes remained in the game. Still, it was naïve to think there wasn’t enough time for Bayern to turn round the deficit. Within minutes Franck Ribery had equalised and with just a few to spare, Jerome Boateng made sure that the team’s dinner was on Jupp Heynckes by nodding in his first ever Bundesliga goal.
More importantly, it was the winner, taking Bayern 20 points clear at the top of the division. Forget the title race (if you haven’t already) because Bayern Munich are now up against history – and they’re even on course to thrash that too. Jupp Heynckes’s team have five more points than any other side has had at this stage of a Bundesliga season.
Win their next three games and they’ll clinch their first league title since 2010 at Eintracht Frankfurt on April 6th. Yet, perhaps the sweetest domestic prospect for Bayern lies in early May. Because, should they take 16 points from their next six games, they will go to Borussia Dortmund, not just as Champions but having broken the record points total set just last season by BVB. And if they could even win at Signal Iduna Park, having already surpassed 81 points, it would further legitimise their status as Deutscher Meister once more.
They may have looked weaker defensively without Dante at the weekend but, that aside, the quality in Bayern’s squad has been shown to be so interchangeable, that it will be surprising if Jupp Heynckes’s side do anything but breeze through to the quarter finals of the Champions League on Wednesday evening.
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga:
Matchday 25 Results:
Augsburg 1-2 Nuremberg
Bayern Munich 3-2 Fortuna Düsseldorf
Freiburg 2-5 Wolfsburg
Greuther Fürth 0-3 Hoffenheim
Mainz 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Schalke 2-1 Borussia Dortmund
Gladbach 1-1 Werder Bremen
Hannover 0-0 Eintracht Frankfurt
Stuttgart 0-1 Hamburg
|1||FC Bayern Munich||25||21||3||1||67:10||+57||66||CL*|
|3||Bayer 04 Leverkusen||25||13||6||6||45:32||+13||45||CL*|
|4||FC Schalke 04||25||11||6||8||43:40||+3||39||CL* Qual.|
|5||Eintracht Frankfurt||25||11||6||8||38:35||+3||39||EL* Qual.|
|6||Hamburger SV||25||11||5||9||30:33||-3||38||EL* Qual.|
|7||1. FSV Mainz 05||25||10||7||8||33:29||+4||37|
|11||1. FC Nuremberg||25||7||10||8||26:32||-6||31|
|13||SV Werder Bremen||25||8||5||12||40:49||-9||29|
Table thanks to official Bundesliga website