Friday, June 21, 2024

Bayern Munich eyeing another Bundesliga title as consolation


BERLIN — Even if Bayern Munich wins the Bundesliga title, it will be little consolation for a disappointing season.

Having won the last 10, a record-extending 11th consecutive league title is seen as the minimum goal to remain the biggest and most successful club in Germany.

The Bundesliga is the only remaining target after Wednesday’s quarterfinal exits against Manchester City in the Champions League and Freiburg in the German Cup two weeks before that. And if nearest challenger Borussia Dortmund can stave off their own self-inflicted shock, the league title race could be unusually exciting over the remaining few weeks.

Bayern were looking to complete a decade of dominance with another league title after beating Dortmund 3-1 last season. Former captain Philipp Lahm and former CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge lamented the perceived lack of worthy rivals at the time.

But neither Lahm nor Rummenigge foresaw Bayern’s own decline. The Bavarian powerhouse now has 10 points fewer than at the same stage of the league last year.

Dortmund, who are two points behind, one point worse off than last season, still had no better chance for the “black and yellow” to capitalize on any Bayern slip-ups to end their 11-year wait for the title. Can eliminate ,

The big question is whether Dortmund can push Bayern to the end. The Edin Terzic-coached side needed to be level after Bayern’s 1-1 draw with Hoffenheim last weekend but drew 3-1 against 10-man Stuttgart after Gio Reyna scored Dortmund’s winner in injury time. conceded a late equalizer to draw with 3. It was a typical Dortmund disappointment, as hopes had dared to rise.

Bayern players greet supporters after the Champions League quarter-final second leg football match between Bayern Munich and Manchester City at Allianz Arena stadium in Bayern Munich, Germany, Wednesday, April 19, 2023. Credit: AP/Mathias Schrader

But this season Bayern’s troubles have also come into their own. Chief executive Oliver Kahn and sporting director Hasan Salihamidić are being investigated for their decision to sack coach Julian Nagelsmann ahead of the crucial games last month. He added that he was concerned that the club would not be able to reach their target for the season.

The gamble didn’t pay off as Bayern crashed out of two competitions in as many weeks under coach Thomas Tuchel, who has only two wins from six matches in all competitions.

Tuchel benched team captain Thomas Muller for both Champions League games against City when the veteran would have made all the difference. Bayern missed a big chance in the second leg when the ball was turned over in front of the goal line. Bayern fans are used to Müller appearing at the far post to score in such situations, but instead there was nobody there and Erling Haaland went on to score at the other end.

Bayern held up a large banner criticizing their club’s leadership at the end of the game. Kahn and Salihamidzic also face scrutiny for not adequately replacing forward Robert Lewandowski, who left for Barcelona in the off-season. Sadio Mane started well but hasn’t been given much playing time since returning from injury that ruled him out of the World Cup.

Bayern head coach Thomas Tuchel is shown the read card during the Champions League quarter-final second leg football match between Bayern Munich and Manchester City at Allianz Arena stadium in Munich, Germany, Wednesday, April 19, 2023. Credit: AP/Mathias Schrader

Kahn and Salihamidzic are already facing questions about reinforcements for next season, when Tuchel will have more time to implement his style of play and make his mark on the team.

But this season is not over yet, even if Bayern wants to. The Bundesliga leaders visit Mainz on Saturday, while Dortmund hosts Eintracht Frankfurt in a late game.