Munich - In 1973 FC Bayern Munich sewed up the Bundesliga title with an unprecedented four matches to spare, allowing them to take it easy for a month before hoisting the famous silver plate. It was feat they would achieve again 30 years later in 2003.
That record is one of several under threat from the latest crop of FC Bayern stars, who are putting two years of underachievement behind them in phenomenal style.
A massive 15 points now separate the Bavarians from closest pursuers Borussia Dortmund, the defending champions having dropped further off the leaders' blistering pace as they came unstuck to the tune of 4-1 at home to Hamburger SV on Saturday. Bayer 04 Leverkusen, meanwhile, stumbled to a 3-3 draw at Borussia Mönchengladbach, adding weight to the notion that Bayern really are in a league of their own.
"We simply can't lose the title now," said Dutch winger Arjen Robben, one of the luxuries Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes had been able to keep on the bench at the start of 2013 before restoring him, along with Mario Gomez, to the starting XI for Saturday's 4-0 demolition of FC Schalke 04. "It was really important for me to play," Robben confirmed.
"We played football with real authority," said Heynckes. "It looked easy - in fact, it's very hard to achieve and is the result of some very hard work." To be sure, the "authority" with which Bayern are performing domestically could hardly have been more evident against an admittedly depleted Schalke side. The Royal Blues simply couldn't get near their hosts as the rampant Reds bullied them into submission, scoring twice in each half and winning at a canter.
"We’re going to be champions in March," sang the club’s fans at the Allianz Arena and who would dare to contradict them? Only Leverkusen have managed to get the better of Bayern in the Bundesliga this season and early last December the men from Munich became the quickest side to secure top spot going into a winter break. As the records continue to tumble, there is a real possibility that they could wrap up the title before spring is in full swing.
26 April is the earliest a club has ever won the Bundesliga - but never before has a club had a 15-point cushion at the top after just 21 matches. Yet Heynckes’ troops have even more records in their sights. 20 points is the largest-ever title-winning margin, again achieved by Bayern in 1973, and 21 goals the fewest conceded in a single season. Amazingly, Manuel Neuer has only fished the ball out of the back of his net seven times so far in the current campaign.
At 67, Heynckes himself would set another record by becoming the oldest coach to win the Bundesliga. The legendary Udo Lattek was in charge of the great FC Bayern class of '73 and he is as convinced as anyone that Munich’s Marienplatz will be bulging for the victory celebration in May. "They’re not going to lose the title now," Lattek told the city’s Abendzeitung newspaper. Few would disagree at this juncture.