This might finally be the year that Borussia Dortmund dethrones Bayern Munich.
All too often in Bayern’s record 10-year run of German titles, Dortmund has failed to capitalize when Bayern dropped points.
That changed Saturday when Dortmund routed Eintracht Frankfurt 4-0 to rise atop the Bundesliga after Bayern lost 3-1 against Mainz, conceding three times in 14 minutes.
Jude Bellingham scored the opening goal for Dortmund, with the versatile midfielder playing like a striker to receive the ball in space on the edge of the box, turn and shoot past Kevin Trapp. Now the England international’s club leads Bayern by one point with five games to go in the title race.
“To be honest, it would mean everything. It would mean the world to me,” Bellingham said in televised comments Saturday of his chances of becoming a Bundesliga champion. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself, speak about it too much and put myself in a place where I feel like I’ve already won it because there are five really tough games to come, whichever way you look at it.
“But it would be massive,” he continued. “I’d love more than anything at the moment to win the league with this club, after everything it’s given me, I’m giving absolutely everything. All of the boys are giving absolutely everything to try and make it happen.”
Still only 19, Bellingham is nearing the end of his third season at Dortmund amid transfer speculation with interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs. During his time in Germany, he has developed into a starter for England at the World Cup and a leader for Dortmund on the field.
Dortmund’s strategy of signing the best young talent to sell at a profit has treated its fans to performances from stars like Bellingham, Erling Haaland, and Ousmane Dembélé over the last few years, but that same strategy has meant the club is in a constant cycle of rebuilding, against a Bayern team with a stable core.
The focus on young attacking players has also been blamed for Dortmund’s persistent fragility in defence in recent years, especially at big moments. It looked like Dortmund might have blown another chance with a 4-2 loss to Bayern on April 1 when it crumbled after an early blunder from goalkeeper Gregor Kobel, then again on April 15 by allowing lowly Stuttgart to level a game at 3-3 in added time with 10 players.
For now, though, the usual order of German soccer is reversed. Dortmund may slip occasionally, but Bayern is hitting new lows. Since his surprise appointment last month to replace Julian Nagelsmann as Bayern coach, Thomas Tuchel has two wins, three draws and three losses. The game that ended Nagelsmann’s reign was his third loss in 37 games this season.
Both teams have relatively easy ends to the season, with three games apiece at home. Dortmund’s next game is against a traditional rival, Bochum, but one that’s in poor form, and it finishes against Mainz, which just upset Bayern. Meanwhile, Bayern gets to play the current bottom two — Hertha Berlin and Schalke — but those teams will be fighting hard to avoid relegation. Bayern’s penultimate game at home against Leipzig on May 20 could prove decisive.
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