Robert Lewandowski's record-breaking year in front of goal has helped Julian Nagelsmann's Bayern Munich open up a nine-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga.
bundesliga.com reviews the record champions' exploits over the first half of the 2021/22 campaign...
The story so far
It's pretty much been business as usual since Nagelsmann replaced sextuple-winning head coach Hansi Flick. Bayern have won 14 of their 17 matches so far this season, only dropping points against Borussia Mönchengladbach (1-1), Eintracht Frankfurt (1-2) and Augsburg (1-2). The Bundesliga's best attack (56 goals scored) and joint-meanest defence (16 goals against) at the halfway stage have also come up with the goods in the UEFA Champions League, where they advanced to the last 16 with a 100 per cent record. The only real blot to the copybook was the DFB Cup second-round exit at the hands of Gladbach.
It has to be Lewandowski. The Striker of the Year has 19 goals to show for his efforts, contributing to his league-record 43 strikes over the course of 2021. He's averaging a goal every 76 minutes, and is only down three compared to the same juncture last term when he went on to land a fifth successive top scorer's cannon, thanks to a record 41-goal haul.
Watch: All 19 of Robert Lewandowski's Bundesliga goals in 2021/22
Best game so far
Lewandowski scored twice as Bayern came from behind to beat second-placed Borussia Dortmund 3-2 in Der Klassiker. The result took the defending champions four points clear, dealing their closest pursuers a heavy mathematical and psychological blow in the title race.
Watch: Borussia Dortmund 2-3 Bayern Munich - highlights
One to watch
Jamal Musiala started the season in a wide attacking role, producing two goals and as many assists across his first four league matches. The 18-year-old's playing time diminished, in part due to Leroy Sane's electric form, before injuries to Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka opened the door to a central midfield role. Musiala seized his chance, registering a goal and assist across Bayern's final three fixtures of 2021, and will provide Nagelsmann with an invaluable weapon in the months ahead.
The view from inside the camp
"We can all be happy with our performances during the Hinrunde. We keep delivering, and we're top. You can all see how much we're enjoying our football right now." - Leroy Sane
Gladbach (h) - Matchday 18
RB Leipzig (h) - Matchday 21
Dortmund (h) - Matchday 31
With Bayern kicking off the Rückrunde at home to faltering Gladbach, the gap between the top two could be as much as 12 points by the time Dortmund face Frankfurt on Matchday 18. The visit of Nagelsmann's former employers RB Leipzig is among the biggest tests the league leaders will face on their own patch, perhaps with the exception of Dortmund on Matchday 31. By that point, a 10th successive league title could already be in the bag.