By the time that Bayern Munich return to the field, it will be over two months since the Bundesliga title-favourites last stepped foot in the Allianz Arena. Since beating Schalke and Augsburg at the start of March, the Bundesliga has been on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but football returns to Germany next weekend.
The jostle to secure the 2019-20 Bundesliga title is a four-horse race going into the final nine weeks of the domestic season. Prior to the resumption of play, Bayern Munich lead the way on 55 points, four points clear at the summit. Second-placed Borussia Dortmund sit on 51 points, while RB Leipzig and Borussia Mönchengladbach lag behind on 50 and 49 points, respectively.
Bayern emerge from the restart as the clear title favourites. The Bundesliga champions reopen the campaign with a brace of fixtures against SC Freiburg and VFL Wolfsburg, with both sides entering the final stretch with a faint prospect of securing the final Europa League qualification berth. If Hans-Dieter Flick’s side emerge from the league’s hiatus well-prepared, they should sweep Freiburg and Wolfsburg aside.
Mönchengladbach will pose a sterner test, but it is one that Bayern should rise to
Before the Bundesliga season ends, Bayern will also host Fortuna Düsseldorf, Eintracht Frankfurt and Mönchengladbach at the Allianz Arena. Düsseldorf and Frankfurt both return from COVID-19 suspension in the bottom half of the standings. Düsseldorf, managed by former Manchester City forward Uwe Rösler, face an almighty battle to escape the relegation playoff place, while Frankfurt sit just six points clear of Die Fortunen. Mönchengladbach will pose a sterner test, but it is one that Bayern should rise to.
Bayern face trips to Union Berlin, Bayer Leverkusen, Werder Bremen and – most alluring – Borussia Dortmund before the end of the season. Essentially, the cookie of Bayern’s season will crumble dependent upon how they fare against Leverkusen, Dortmund and Mönchengladbach. Flick’s side lead the title chase by four points, but it is the nine points up for grabs against sides in the top five that will define their season.
The Bavarian giants, however, have plenty of balls left to juggle. After beating Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge in February, Bayern are firm favourites to progress to the last eight of the Champions League, should UEFA sanction the league’s resumption. The Allianz Arena club are also in pole position to scoop the DFB Cup. Bayern face Frankfurt at home in the semi-final, while Leverkusen and fourth-tier FC Saarbrücken battle for the remaining spot in the final.
Flick has overseen 18 victories in 21 matches, sustaining an impressive 85.71%-win ratio
Somewhat remarkably, Bayern are finally back in a position to challenge for the treble – but there is a long way to go yet. Following Niko Kovač’s dismissal in November, Bayern have improved steadily under Hans Flick. Since entering the Bayern dugout as the club’s head coach, Flick has overseen 18 victories in 21 matches, sustaining an impressive 85.71%-win ratio.
Key to Bayern’s success under Flick has been the re-implementation of the 4-2-3-1 that served the club so well during Jupp Heynckes’ treble-winning tenure. At Stamford Bridge, Bayern started a formidable defensive unit of Manuel Neuer, Benjamin Pavard, Jerome Boateng, David Alaba and Alphonso Davies. Neuer and Pavard are World Cup winners, Boateng and Alaba were once thought of as the best players in their positions and Davies is among the newest crop of generational talents.
Bayern’s class smacks you in the face. In central midfield, Kimmich, Alcantara, Goretzka and Tolisso compete for two places in the starting eleven. Perhaps the only outfield player in the Bayern squad who is assured of his place in the starting line-up is the indominable Robert Lewandowski.
The world will be watching when the Bundesliga returns this weekend, and much of that focus will be directed towards Bayern Munich. The glittering talents of Davies, Gnabry, Coutinho and Müller will undoubtedly pull fans behind Bayern’s cause, but will their prowess be enough to drag Bayern over the line for yet another piece of domestic silverware. Bayern have a somewhat precarious shot at a historic treble, Flick could yet make history in what has been a season of truly unprecedented disruption.