Bayern Munich are not alone in their pursuit of the 2018/19 Bundesliga title, but it’s the defending champions who have the edge on Borussia Dortmund with two games to play.
bundesliga.com outlines five reasons why Bayern won’t fall at the final hurdle...
1) The title is Bayern's to lose
With a four-point lead and sizeable advantage in the goal difference department - +52 to +34 - Niko Kovac’s Bayern will claim the club’s 28th league title of the Bundesliga era if they win either of their final two matches of the season against RB Leipzig (a) and Eintracht Frankfurt (h). Dortmund, meanwhile, must maximum points against Fortuna Düsseldorf (h) and Borussia Mönchengladbach (a) to stand any chance of toppling the record champions at the last. Even then, Bayern would have to drop points in both of their remaining games to concede the crown. It's fair to say one Bayern hand has a firm grip on the Meisterschale.
2) They've done it before
It sounds simple, but Bayern didn’t become Germany’s most successful club by accident. From their first Bundesliga title triumph in 1969 right through to their last six on the spin, the Red Ballet are champions in the truest sense of the word. Yes, they’ve wrapped up the title sooner in times past - by Matchday 31 in the case of their previous six - but they also know how to do it the hard way. Aside from clawing back a seven-point deficit this season, they claimed domestic honours on goal difference in 1985/86 and thanks to a last-gasp Patrik Andersson goal on the final day of 2000/01. Never-say never, champion spirit is in the Bayern DNA.
Watch: Relive Patrik Andersson's 2001 title-clinching free-kick
3) Lewandowski's the best in the business
Just look at Robert Lewandowski. The Poland striker is a BIG reason why Bayern have been able to extend their dominance down the years, and his goals have been absolutely crucial to overhauling Dortmund during the latter part 2018/19. Lewy was on a modest (at least by his standards) 10 goals and even trailed Eintracht Frankfurt’s Luka Jovic in the scoring charts at the halfway stage, but has rattled off 12 in his last 15 matches at a clip of one every 112.5 minutes - securing eight wins and rescuing a potentially priceless point against Freiburg - to reclaim his and Bayern's position at the summit. A fit and firing No.9 might ultimately be what separates the champs from the contenders.
Watch: Robert Lewandowski analysed by Tifo Football
4) Kovac knows his winning XI
Lewandowski’s leading role has never been in doubt, but it’s taken Kovac a little longer to settle on his most effective supporting cast. Thomas Müller in the No.10 role, flanked by Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman, with Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez in the engine room appears to be the former Frankfurt strategist’s preferred and strongest hand. Bayern won three in row between Matchdays 28 and 30 playing that way - thrashing Dortmund 5-0! - but slipped up in Nuremberg on Matchday 31 when Kovac shuffled his pack on the back of a hard-fought midweek DFB Cup semi-final victory in Bremen. It’s tough on guys like Leon Goretzka, James Rodriguez, Renato Sanches and veteran wing duo Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, but as Kovac put it recently: “When we’re winning, what am I supposed to do?”
That said, Goretzka's goal and general performance when starting in the win over Hannover on Matchday 32 is a sure sign that the men waiting in the wings are also up to the challenge.
5) Pick me, pick me!
As long as he is fit, Robben can expect to play further part during the run-in as the Dutchman prepares to call time on a decorated ten-year stint at the club. Ribery is also in the final few months of his contract, while fellow 2012/13 treble winners Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Martinez have hit 30. The club hierarchy have been talking about a summer 'Umbruch' (rebuilding phase) for months, and have already brought in Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies, as well as bolting down deals for 2018 FIFA World Cup-winning defensive pair Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard, and prolific Germany youth international striker Jann- Fiete Arp. With the promise of further reinforcements, the Bavarians’ star-studded crop of fringe players will be chomping at the bit to prove their worth when the champions need them most. It’s just another reason why Bayern hold all the cards in the title race…