Bayern Munich lead the way in their title defence, but Freiburg, RB Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt, Union Berlin and old rivals Borussia Dortmund are all lurking. - © DFL
Bayern Munich lead the way in their title defence, but Freiburg, RB Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt, Union Berlin and old rivals Borussia Dortmund are all lurking. - © DFL

2022/23 Bundesliga title race: can Bayern Munich hold off Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, Frankfurt and Co.?


Who can stop Bayern Munich from making it 11 straight Bundesliga titles? Freiburg lead the pursuit of the record champions, but are Christian Streich’s Freiburg title material, or will more seasoned challengers RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund close the gap at the top? assesses the 2022/23 title race ahead of the return of Bundesliga action on 20 January...

Bayern Munich
Position: 1st
Points: 34
Goals: 49-13 (+36)

It has not been such a smooth ride to the top for the perennial pace-setters this term. The only club going into 2023 in double figures for wins from their 15 games this season, Bayern hit the ground running, lifting the Supercup before putting six goals past UEFA Europa League champions Eintracht Frankfurt in the season’s opening fixture, which raised more than just the curtain on the season. A 7-0 win at Bochum on Matchday 3, spearheaded by new signing Sadio Mane, then suggested the title could be wrapped up in record time.

Watch: All of Mane's goals and assists in the Bundesliga

Borussia Mönchengladbach stifled the mounting euphoria, picking up a 1-1 draw at the Allianz Arena, and draws with Union Berlin and VfB Stuttgart followed before a mini-crisis was completed by Bavarian rivals Augsburg, who edged their neighbours 1-0 on Matchday 7. That saw Julian Nagelsmann’s men slip to fifth, five points behind league-leading Union. A run of seven wins and a Klassiker draw since have not just catapulted Bayern into more familiar territory, but shown the kind of calibre which has them down once again as the Bundesliga benchmarkers.

A four-point lead at the top of the table has them well set, and the magic of Jamal Musiala – with his nine goals and six assists – is providing a familiar feeling at the Allianz Arena, where winning titles have become a club custom. The likes of Joshua Kimmich, Thomas Müller, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane also keen to put their World Cup disappointment behind them in the best possible way – by winning more trophies – but the loss of Manuel Neuer to injury could throw a spanner in the works.

Position: 2nd
Points: 30
Goals: 25-17 (+8)

Not many will fancy Freiburg to sustain a challenge at the top, but a close look at what Streich has built in the Black Forest tells you that they cannot be written off. Of course, they don't hold a candle to Bayern in the experience stakes as they seek a first ever major trophy compared to the Bavarians’ unrivalled collection of 32 national titles, but they do have the league’s most experienced tactician sat on their bench. And his wisdom is well and truly rubbing off on his team.

Christian Streich, the mastermind behind Freiburg's remarkable season and the league's longest-serving coach. - IMAGO/BEAUTIFUL SPORTS/Gerd Gruendl/IMAGO/Beautiful Sports

Efficiency is a stereotypical German trait which Freiburg also stand for. Nine wins and three draws have come from just 25 goals scored, while only Bayern have conceded fewer than their 17, of which five came in just a single game in Munich. Over their other 14 games, they conceded just 12. The return of prodigal son Matthias Ginter in the summer had a two-fold effect in bolstering the back line. The 28-year-old Germany international has read the defender’s manual from cover to cover, and he is also Streich’s extended arm on the field. As a result, the departure of Nico Schlotterbeck in June has duly been compensated for.

At the other end of the field, Italian Vincenzo Grifo has accounted for over a third of their goals – nine – and been particularly effective from the penalty spot, converting four of Freiburg’s league-high five spot kicks. The trickery of former St. Pauli attacking midfielder Daniel Kofi-Kyereh has helped earn many of those penalties, while 28-year-old former Augsburg forward Michael Gregoritsch has brought balance to a blend of youth and experience in a side where 21-year-old winger Kevin Schade is flourishing.

RB Leipzig
Position: 3rd
Points: 28
Goals: 30-21 (+9)

Marco Rose knows what it means to be asked to break Bayern’s dominance of the Bundesliga, having been hired by Dortmund to do just that in 2021. He was unable to succeed there, but has been given another chance to halt the champions with hometown club Leipzig, taking over after Die Roten Bullen had made a slow start to the season and Domenico Tedesco was consequently relieved of his duties. They have hit a higher gear since and have been keeping pace with Bayern since mid-October.

Watch: Leipzig red hot again under Rose

After a 4-0 humbling at Eintracht Frankfurt, the gap to the top of the table had grown to nine points, and the distance to the bottom two dwindled to just two. That is not the territory Leipzig expected or wanted to be in, which was why something had to change. In addition to Rose's arrival, step forward Christopher Nkunku. Since moving into a slightly deeper position under the new coach, operating off the shoulder of Andre Silva and with Timo Werner and Dominik Szoboszlai to either side, Leipzig have not lost in the Bundesliga.

The Frenchman has steered in eight goals and supplied two assists in that eight-game unbeaten streak, twice earning Player of the Month nominations and illustrating why he was named the Bundesliga’s Player of the Season for 2021/22. Szoboszlai’s form has also rocketed, with Rose’s attacking brand of football seeming suited to his star players. If Silva can start to score with more regularity, Bayern may soon start to feel the Bulls breathing even more heavily down the back of their neck.

Eintracht Frankfurt
: 4th
Points: 27
Goals: 32-24 (+8)

Almost nine months on from lifting the Europa League trophy into the Seville air, Frankfurt are now on the charge in the Bundesliga. They appear to have recovered from a hangover they suffered after winning their first piece of major European silverware since 1980, and the bruising 6-1 opening-day defeat at home to Bayern has been erased from the memory by an impressive 4-0 win over Leipzig and 5-1 demolition of Bayer Leverkusen.

Watch: All Kolo Muani's goals and assists in the Bundesliga

Inconsistency is an issue for Oliver Glasner’s men, however, and their first ever involvement in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League has put the Eagles to the test. They have emerged from their busiest ever three-month period of competitive football with glowing grades, though – through to the last-16 of the Champions League, where Napoli lie in wait, only seven points from the summit of the Bundesliga and into the last 16 of the DFB Cup.

French rookie Randal Kolo Muani has been at the forefront of Frankfurt’s firepower, filling the assist-filled boots of the departed Filip Kostic by providing a league-leading nine provisions so far this season. That ultimately earned a place in his country’s World Cup squad in the process and he has since returned to Frankfurt with a runners-up medal. Add to that his five goals and only Bayern’s Musiala has been directly involved in more goals (15) than Kolo Muani’s 14 – almost half of his side’s 32 league goals.

At the back, experienced custodian Kevin Trapp provides defensive security, while captain Sebastian Rode is playing a dual role of stopping opponents in his own penalty area while wreaking havoc of his own at the other end of the field, with three goals to his name. Frankfurt have a settled squad and, with their Europa League title, the knowledge and nous of how to win a title, which is why their challenge is very much real.

Union Berlin
Position: 5th
Points: 27
Goals: 24-20 (+4)

Pace-setters for much of the season, Urs Fischer’s Union started to fade heading into the winter break. Never before have Union led the Bundesliga at such an advanced stage of a season as they did on Matchday 12 - in fact, they'd never topped the table at all before this campaign - after a dramatic come-from-behind win over Gladbach, but a 5-0 loss at Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 13 saw them toppled, and a proverbial bubble appeared to be burst.

Watch: Union's euphoric late win over Gladbach

After drawing 2-2 with Augsburg, they ended 2022 with a 4-1 loss at Freiburg. It could be said that the winter break came at a perfect time for Fischer to press the reset button. Beating Borussia Dortmund 2-0, Leipzig 2-1 and drawing 1-1 with Bayern does not happen by fluke, after all, and Fischer will have spent the two-month pause reviewing what his team did so well in those games in order to restore form heading into the new year.

First and foremost, the focus will be on getting Sheraldo Becker back to his best, after scoring six and setting up four across the first seven games of the season, but who has scored only once since. The tricky 27-year-old Dutch forward is not the only star striker in need of a boost. Jordan scored two and set up two more across the first four games of the season, but has just one goal and one assist since. If both prongs of the Union attack can start piercing defences again, Union’s hat can be thrown back into the title ring.

Borussia Dortmund
Position: 6th
Points: 25
Goals: 25-21 (+4)

Bayern’s closest rivals for the majority of their decade-long grip on the Meisterschale, and the last team to pip them to the title in 2012, Dortmund cannot be called out of the title race this term either, especially not with a player of the quality of Jude Bellingham on the books.

Watch: Bellingham the complete midfielder

Bellingham had an outstanding World Cup in Qatar, drawing widespread acclaim as England’s key player, even though he is still just 19-years-old. He has been equally influential at the heart of Dortmund’s midfield this season, with his three goals barely scratching the surface of all he has done for the black and yellows in over 100 competitive appearances – so much so, he has already worn the captain’s armband, more than six months before he puts his teenage years behind him.

He has won the most challenges across the entire Bundesliga (245 – 44 more than Gladbach’s Kouadio Kone in second) and become the beating heart of a Borussia side who can beat anybody on their day. However, they are another outfit plagued by inconsistency, with defeats to Wolfsburg and Gladbach seeing them end 2022 nine points off the pace. Head coach Edin Terzic will be keen on rekindling the Klassiker spirit which saw them grab a last-gasp draw with Bayern on Matchday 9, and to keep it burning through to the end of the season as Dortmund aim to keep their rivals on their toes.