Pep Guardiola took the 21-year-old Joshua Kimmich aside after Bayern Munich’s thrilling goalless draw against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. What looked like a very harsh dressing down, was actually Guardiola taking the time to praise the young defender and help improve his game. Guardiola later said of Kimmich, “I love this boy, he has absolutely everything.” Bayern had just held the League’s highest scoring team goalless for 90 minutes, and they did so with a 21-year-old playing centerback in place of an injured Jerome Boateng. Dortmund was unable to trim Bayern’s lead to two points, and now Bayern looks set for an unprecedented fourth-consecutive Bundesliga title.
An emotional Pep Guardiola and 21-year-old Joshua Kimmich have a post-match chat after the full-time whistle. https://t.co/XrYmePu69s
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 5, 2016
By all means, the title race isn’t over. In England Leicester City only have a five-point lead over their closest rivals, and no one is suggesting that race is anything close to finished. The difference is that Leicester is not Bayern. If Dortmund is going to catch Bayern, it’s not out of the question to suggest that they would have to win every match for the rest of the season. If they allow Bayern to grow their lead to eight or more points, then it will be near impossible to prevent another party at Marienplatz this year.
Each team’s remaining schedule is favorable, even though Dortmund still have to travel to Gelsenkirchen to play Schalke. Both teams will also travel to Berlin, a fixture that in recent years has been an easy three points, but now it’s a tougher task. Bayern will, of course, be favored to win these games, as they have been all season long. They’re not unbeatable, though, and Dortmund have to hope there are a few more nights like Bayern’s defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach and Mainz. But scoreboard watching won’t help them, they have to win the games in front of them first and worry about Bayern second.
This year’s Bundesliga race has certainly been closer than many might have thought back in October when these teams first met. Part of that is because Dortmund has been so good for most of the season. They’re on pace to set a record for a second-place finish in the league. It’s because of this that Bayern is facing their first real title race in a few years. Thomas Tuchel has been tremendous for Dortmund. The problem is simply that Guardiola has been equally tremendous in Bavaria.
The five points that separate the two teams can be wiped away, if Bayern stumble just twice and Dortmund are able to continue to win then the gap can be erased. But Guardiola’s intensity suggests he’ll have his team ready for his final stretch in Munich. Bayern has faltered in recent years at the end of the season, especially after they have secured the league with plenty of time to spare. Now that they are in a title race it makes it hard for them to take their foot off the gas.
If Bayern go on to win the Bundesliga, which looks very likely, it will be the first time in the club’s 116 year history that they’ve won it four consecutive years. Say what you will about the competitiveness of the league, but the fact that we’re here looking at the likelihood of a Dortmund comeback when a few months ago it looked like there was no hope says a lot about the league. Bayern will likely go on from here and win, but Dortmund won’t make it easy for them. To Bundesliga fans around the world, even Bayern Munich supporters, it’s much better than the alternative.