Coming up this week on GOAL!...
Inside the Numbers
Where to begin with the records recently established or still in the process of being set or extended by FC Bayern München? The longest unbeaten run in the history of the Bundesliga continues to grow longer by the week and season best-marks for wins, points and fewest goals conceded are there for the taking once again, even on the back of the Munich club's phenomenal 2013/14 campaign. In terms of the hard currency of silverware, too, the current German, European and world champions, despite some very stiff historical competition, surely have a strong claim to the title of best FC Bayern ever?
Whether under his original professional mentor Louis van Gaal, treble-winning Jupp Heynckes or new supremo Pep Guardiola, there has invariably been a regular starting slot in the star-studded FC Bayern line-up for Thomas Müller. Since his meteoric rise from the youth ranks in 2009, the attacking all-rounder has proved equally hard to pin down for opponents and pundits alike with his uncanny ability to ghost into just the right place at just the right time. Guardiola has been deploying the Bavarian fans' favourite out wide and as the nominal central striker to great effect, with Müller chalking up eight league goals and seven assists in 16 starting appearances and three off the bench so far. It looks like another great season in the making for the 24-year-old and he is on course to round it out in style in Brazil, defending his 2010 FIFA World Cup top scorer crown.
Top Game I
A crippling injury list, an extended sticky patch that included home defeats to their two main domestic rivals: it was all at least momentarily forgotten as Borussia Dortmund surged to a barnstorming 5-1 win at Bremen on Matchday 20. Head coach Jürgen Klopp hailed it as “the best performance of the season in terms of our counter-pressing“ and it certainly came at a timely juncture, with a busy few weeks of potentially season-defining action on the cards. Next up in the Bundesliga is a home meeting with Eintracht Frankfurt, themselves fresh from a vital 3-0 home victory over their namesakes from Braunschweig. Had the result gone the other way, Armin Veh's side would have slipped to within three points of their cellar-dwelling opponents. As it stands, they will travel to Dortmund twelfth in the table – still, admittedly, in a far from comfortable position but the overall form curve remains upward since their surprise Matchday 16 success at Leverkusen. A revitalised Dortmund have been duly warned.
Top Game II
The BayArena is the venue for the heavyweight meeting of Matchday 21, as second-place Bayer Leverkusen take on FC Schalke 04, six points behind them in fourth. The hosts go into the game off the back of a key win at fellow European aspirants Borussia Mönchengladbach, their second straight success. Jens Keller's visitors can top that, however, after maintaining their 100 percent record in 2014 with a home victory over Hannover 96. That solid start to the year has manoeuvred the Gelsenkirchen club to the fringes of the realm they openly laid claim to before the season start – a top-three finish and a direct qualifying berth in the group stages of the Champions League. Completing the season double over Leverkusen, whom they beat 2-0 on Matchday 4, would be a huge step in the right direction. Bayer of course are for their part seeking to make best use of home advantage to open up a formidable nine-point gap on their Royal Blue pursuers.