Coming up this week on GOAL!...
Inside the Numbers
They were widely touted as the side most likely to give FC Bayern a genuine run for their money in the league this season but Borussia Dortmund go into Matchday 20 already a mammoth 17 points adrift of the team they pushed all the way in last year's UEFA Champions League final. BVB have certainly not had their problems to seek on the personnel front this season, with the defensive department stretched particularly thin by a raft of injuries. They got back to winning ways at Eintracht Braunschweig last Friday but tellingly, the 2-1 victory was also the tenth league game running in which they failed to keep a clean sheet – an unparalleled sequence since Jürgen Klopp took up the coaching reins in 2008. We put the 2011 and 2012 Bundesliga champs under the microscope to try and pinpoint which other areas are currently giving Klopp most cause for concern.
Top Game I
Having played up a storm for the best part of the first season-half, Borussia Mönchengladbach have gone a little flat of late, with two draws directly before the winter break followed by back-to-back defeats since the league action restarted. If the first of those, against FC Bayern, was perhaps no huge surprise, the latest – 3-1 away to an admittedly revitalised Hannover 96 – will have given head coach Lucien Favre plenty of pause for thought. The Foals have slipped from third to fifth in the table as a result, but if they can return to winning ways when Bayer 04 Leverkusen come calling, they will haul themselves back to within four points of the current second-placed side. The Werkself naturally enough have every incentive to at the very least remain just where they are, even if reeling-in red-hot pace-setters FC Bayern does now appear an exceptionally big ask. Sami Hyypiä's men started into 2014 with a surprise defeat on the road at Freiburg but they bounced back to nab an important late win against Stuttgart and steady the ship. Now, the short trip to their Rhineland rivals and fellow Champions League hopefuls offers the opportunity to take a big step towards requalification for Europe's elite club competition.
Top Game II
Had 1. FC Nürnberg been entertaining FC Bayern München in the season reopener, the odds against them claiming the regional bragging rights in this north-south Bavarian classic may well have been at or around a record high. The Munich star ensemble have done nothing in the interim to lessen their own status as overwhelming favourites, with a last-gasp win in a held-over assignment away to Stuttgart sandwiched between impressive victories at Gladbach (2-0) and, on Sunday, against Eintracht Frankfurt (5-0). Der Club have, however, been playing like a team transformed over the same period. Having set a new Bundesliga worst-mark by getting through an entire first season-half without a single win, they now appear to be going all-out to make up for lost time, following up on a 4-0 thumping of Hoffenheim with a 3-1 success against Hertha Berlin in the capital. Thus belatedly off the mark under Dutch coach Gertjan Verbeek and with Josip Drmic in fine scoring form up front, Nürnberg may well prove one very tough nut for Bayern to crack.
Intimidating a prospect as it is for all those going up against them, FC Bayern remain far from the finished article in the eyes of Pep Guardiola, a little over halfway through his first season in charge in Munich. One player taking an ever more central role in the Catalan tactician's planning is Mario Götze, fresh on the books last summer from Borussia Dortmund. After an injury-delayed start to professional life in the Bavarian capital, the 21-year-old attacking talent has wasted no time demonstrating just why he is regarded as one of the hottest properties in the world game. His move from boyhood club BVB to their fiercest domestic rivals was the subject of heated and at times overheated debate but the bottom line for Götze is simple enough: “It was the right move for me.“ A clutch of artfully executed goals, most of them scored in the last few matches, and an all-round forward game evidently made to measure for the Guardiola philosophy have swiftly helped prove his point.