There are three rounds of matches left in the 2018/19 Bundesliga season and it appears the title race will go down to the wire. Bayern Munich lead Borussia Dortmund 71 points to 69 after Matchday 31, but what fine margins will decide the destination of this year's Meisterschale?
bundesliga.com puts forward five arguments for each team...
1) Psychological advantage
Bayern didn't just beat Dortmund in the 100th Bundesliga Klassiker on Matchday 28, they blew them away. The Reds trailed by two points at the start of play, but reminded fans the world over why they have scooped the last six Bundesliga titles on the spin in a blistering team performance.
Goals from Mats Hummels, Robert Lewandowski, Javi Martinez and Serge Gnabry had them 4-0 up at the break, but it could so easily have been more. Lewandowski did add another late on to rubber-stamp the win and put the destiny of the 2018/19 Meisterschale firmly in Bavarian hands.
Bayern and Dortmund won on Matchdays 29 and 30, only to slip up a week later - Bayern were held by Nuremberg after Dortmund lost to Schalke - though it's the defending champions who still hold all the cards with a two-point lead and superior goal difference.
2) The X-factor
Wheeling away with his arms crossed in an X, Lewandowski celebrating a goal is one of the most common sights in a Bayern match. Despite what some may see as a below-par campaign, the Poland captain is still leading the scoring charts on 21 goals, ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt's Luka Jovic (17). He is third on Bayern's list of all-time Bundesliga scorers (127) and now the highest scoring non-German in the league's history (201).
The 30-year-old is quite simply a guarantee of Bayern success. He's found the back of the net in 84 separate Bundesliga games and the record champions have won 77 of them, drawing six and suffering just one defeat, although it was the 3-2 loss in Dortmund earlier this season. At his current rate of a goal every 128 minutes in the German top flight, you'd expect Lewandowski to clock up at least another two strikes this campaign. Bundesliga defences have been warned - but that never seems to help.
Watch: Lewandowski's rise to global stardom
3) The form side
The age-old saying goes that a season is a marathon, not a sprint, and that’s where momentum can play a major part. At the halfway point of the campaign, the record champions were six points off Dortmund – having cut the gap from nine after Matchday 15. Now, they're two points out in front and it's thanks to Bayern's 2019 form, which has seen them win 11 of their 14 Bundesliga matches (D2, L1). Borussia, on the other hand, have won seven (three draws, three defeats).
There's perhaps no more terrifying sight for a Bundesliga player than a Bayern side getting into their stride, as third-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach discovered when they were thrashed 5-1 at home by the defending champions, a result the Bavarians followed up with a pair of 6-0 wins over Wolfsburg on Matchday 25 and Mainz on Matchday 26. Bayern were held by Freiburg, but then put five past Dortmund without reply in Der Klassiker and followed that up with a 4-1 dismissal of Fortuna Düsseldorf and hard-earned win against Bremen. Bayern are picking up a head of steam and BVB can now see the plume rising above their towering Yellow Wall.
Watch: Bayern batter Borussia (Mönchengladbach) on Matchday 24
4) Niko’s grit
Such is the weight of expectation in Munich that not even second place on goal difference is good enough for Bayern. Such demands can be tough for an incoming coach, and it has taken Niko Kovac some time to really acclimatise to the Allianz Arena dugout, but things look to be clicking now with the former Frankfurt and Croatia boss settling on a formation and core to his team. The DFB Cup-winning coach has opted for two holding midfielders in front of a defence now built around 23-year-old Niklas Süle.
James Rodriguez is also a pivotal member of the side following his return from a knee injury, being deployed in his preferred No.10 position between the two out-and-out wingers. Yet despite his Latino flair, one thing to note about Bayern's run of 16 wins in their last 20 league games isn't the way they've brushed aside teams like Düsseldorf (4-1), Dortmund (5-0), Mainz (6-0), Wolfsburg (6-0), Gladbach (5-1), Frankfurt (3-0), Hannover (4-0) and Nuremberg (3-0), but how they've also ground out results. While Dortmund have been struggling somewhat, Kovac's side have battled to narrow victories over Hertha Berlin (1-0), Augsburg (3-2), RB Leipzig (1-0) and Bremen. It's the stuff champions are made of and what they'll need if they're to be celebrating for a seventh consecutive season on the balcony at Marienplatz come May.
5) Waiting in the wings
While the current Dortmund squad as a whole only contains 10 Bundesliga medals, Franck Ribery alone is going for his ninth. That would make the Frenchman the league's outright record holder ahead of illustrious former teammates Oliver Kahn, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, as well as his predecessor in the No.7 shirt, Mehmet Scholl. Arjen Robben is also aiming to join that elite club of eight-time winners in his final season with the record champions. The wing duo know how to cut inside and get the job done.
David Alaba and Thomas Müller also have seven titles to their name, while Jerome Boateng, Martinez, Manuel Neuer, Rafinha and Lewandowski have six. That's 59 Bundesliga medals spread across just nine players. No team in Europe's top five leagues right now can boast a squad that has won so many titles for their club as Bayern. They know better than most how to finish top of the pile after 34 games.
Time for the argument from the defence, second-placed Dortmund…
1) Dortmund have their Rolls Reus
Marco Reus succeeded Marcel Schmelzer as Borussia captain at the start of this season and would be the man to lift the Bundesliga trophy – the Meisterschale – aloft on 18 May should BVB end Bayern's six-year domestic dominance. And the Dortmund native has led from the front in this title race with 16 goals and eight assists in just 26 appearances.
Described by teammate Thomas Delaney as the Black-Yellows' Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, Reus' importance to Dortmund’s title charge is underlined by their record with and without him. When the 29-year-old plays, BVB average 2.3 points and score 2.54 goals per Bundesliga game. In his absence, those numbers drop to 2.2 and 1.6 respectively. A Reus firing on all cylinders is crucial to bringing the Bundesliga title back to Dortmund for the first time since 2012, though he is suspended for the Matchday 32 trip to Bremen.
2) The teenage delivery boy
Now we’re not talking pizzas here but assists – a Europe-leading 14 of them to be precise and all handed over by Jadon Sancho - that's more than Lionel Messi! In fact, the 19-year-old is the only teenager among the world's top 200 first-tier assist-providers during 2018/19.
Do Dortmund have the best teenager in global football among their ranks? Add 11 goals to those 14 league assists from 31 appearances and you’ve got a serious argument, especially when you throw in Sancho's decisive brace in the 2-1 win over Mainz on Matchday 29. But what about that kid over in Paris, he’s pretty good, isn’t he? Yes, that he is, but the 20-year-old Kylian Mbappe is taking part in a title procession, not spearheading a title race.
Watch: Jadon Sancho's big hopes and dreams
3) Goals left, right and centre
Borussia are no longer the top scorers in the league this season, but they do boast the most goalscorers with 18. Of the 22 players to feature in the Bundesliga, only Ömer Toprak, Schmelzer and goalkeepers Roman Bürki and Marwin Hitz are yet to find the back of the opposition net.
While the focus of defenders naturally lies on top scorers Paco Alcacer (17), Reus (16) and Sancho (11), that ability to strike from anywhere adds another level to BVB's threat in front of goal. It's a contrast to rivals Bayern and their reliance on Robert Lewandowski in the final third. He one of just two Munich players to hit double figures this season, with Serge Gnabry second on the list with 10 goals.
4) In Klopp's image
When many fans think of Dortmund, they cast their mind back to the team that won back-to-back Bundesliga titles under Jürgen Klopp in 2011 and 2012. And yet Lucien Favre's total of 69 points from 31 games is exactly the same as what Klopp's side had in the bank in 2010/11, and only three less than in 2011/12 at the same stage.
Klopp teams are also famed for their attacking play, yet Favre's boys are outscoring his predecessor's. Dortmund's booty of 73 goals is more than a Klopp side ever pillaged at this juncture.
Watch: The new-look Borussia Dortmund
5) One target
Despite surrendering top spot in recent weeks, Borussia can focus all their energy on ensuring they will be parading the Meisterschale around Borsigplatz come the end of the season after their elimination from the UEFA Champions League and DFB Cup. Bayern, on the other hand, will be feeling the after-effects of an energy-sapping midweek DFB Cup semi-final win over Werder Bremen.
While everyone in Dortmund will agree that they'd like to see their side fighting on multiple fronts, there may now be a quiet sense of relief that the Black-Yellows can focus their attention on the Bundesliga and bringing the title back to the league's founding city.