Bayern Munich have clinched their 27th Bundesliga title, and you can smell the beer flowing throughout Bavaria. Jupp Heynckes’ men conquered an unprecedented sixth straight domestic crown, a record run marked by key milestone moments.
With Bayern sealing the deal with a 4-1 win at Augsburg, bundesliga.com recalls the games that shaped Bayern’s successful 2017/18 campaign...
The signing of star playmaker James Rodriguez for Bayern was the biggest story of the summer in Germany, but the Colombian ace had a rough start to his Bundesliga career. A late pre-season injury sidelined him for the first two matches of the campaign and his debut as a substitute against Hoffenheim on Matchday 3 ended in a 2-0 defeat. On his first league start, James made a loud and clear statement at Schalke by scoring his first goal, providing an assist and putting on a masterclass in footballing wizardry. The cloud of doubts murking the shine of Bayern’s star dissipated for good that night.
Watch: James Rodriguez steals the headlines against Schalke
While James’ explosion was a huge boost to the squad, coach Carlo Ancelotti was still not able to recover from an early season tailspin that saw the Bavarian giants fall five points behind Borussia Dortmund in the early standings and suffer a 3-0 loss at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. The Italian was dismissed and Heynckes, the architect of Bayern’s legendary 2012/13 treble campaign, came out of retirement to steer the ship back on course. The team responded to the managerial change with a convincing performance over Freiburg and a scoreline to match (5-0).
During his presentation as Bayern coach, Heynckes rated the challenge of overtaking Dortmund’s five-point lead on the table as “difficult”, an assessment which most pundits would have agreed with. The gift of hindsight, however, let's us tell the tale of a rising Bayern squad that quickly found its best form as their rivals nosedived into their absolute undoing (more on that later). When RB Leipzig visited the Allianz Arena, Bayern had the chance to regain their usual place at the top of the standings and they did not waste it. Downing last year’s closest title challenger proved to be the definitive turning point of Bayern’s season.
Der Klassiker was a high stakes affair and rounded off a busy week for Bayern following the Leipzig game and a trip to Glasgow to face Celtic. A Borussia win would’ve seen both teams at the top of the table with equal points, rekindling the excitement of neutral fans across the world to see both clubs battle it out throughout the season once again like in the Jürgen Klopp days. Instead, the visitors looted the Signal Iduna Park with a stellar performance that saw all of its stars shine throughout the match. The 3-1 scoreline cemented both Bayern’s lead in the table and Dortmund’s crisis. The Yellow-and-Blacks extended their winless run to four games and their dry spell continued until Matchday 15, when a defeat against Werder Bremen resulted in the dismissal of Peter Bosz as their head coach. The Dortmund threat was neutralised on the spot.
Watch: Bayern down Dortmund and set the tone for both their seasons
By the end of the Hinrunde, it was clear that Bayern’s title bid would be hard to challenge as Heynckes’ men went to the winter break 11 points ahead of their closest rivals. If there was any hope for a charge from anyone else, the restart of the Bundesliga would be a prime opportunity to strike. Bayer Leverkusen’s silent revolution under Heiko Herrlich was already in full swing and an upset by the Werkself (fourth in the standings at that point) wasn’t a far-fetched prospect. However, Bayern pulled no stops to stomp out the opposition with a stellar performance by James, who scored one of the finest free-kick goals of the season. Bayern left the BayArena with an insurmountable 13-point lead in the standings.
Watch: Bend it like James: The Colombian's January Goal of the Month winner at Leverkusen
The rest of the Rückrunde has been smooth sailing for Bayern. Heynckes made sure to keep his squad focused and hungry while Leipzig, Schalke, Leverkusen and Dortmund scrapped against each other behind, which enabled the leaders to put even clearer daylight between the competition and themselves. Hoffenheim’s visit to the Allianz Arena was special because it provided the home team with a chance to even things out after Julian Nagelsmann’s crew had outsmarted them to an upset win early in the season. The scoreline alone doesn’t tell the whole tale of an exciting match where Bayern had to dig deep to beat a more than worthy rival.
Hamburg’s recent history at the Allianz and their poor form throughout the season suggested that this would be an easy win for Bayern and it very much was. Despite that, this games will go down in history as the day Robert Lewandowski scored his 100th goal for Bayern in the Bundesliga and overtook Giovane Elber as the club’s top foreign scorer in all competitions. The Pole’s Man of the Matchday performance heralded a victory that signalled Bayern’s first mathematical chance at securing the 2017/18 Meisterschale if results go their way prior to Sunday's visit to Leipzig...
In a twist that can only happen in football stories, Bayern could be crowned champions in the same fixture that saw them take the lead of the Bundesliga earlier this season. If Schalke and Dortmund fail to win and Heynckes’ men take the three points home, Bayern would match the Bundesliga’s record for earliest secured title, an honour held by… Bayern, of course. More specifically, they’d equal their previous benchmark set by Pep Guardiola as a manager after clinching the 2013/14 title on the Matchday 27 with a 3-1 win over Hertha Berlin. However, Matchday 27 comes a week earlier this season due to the FIFA World Cup, so 18 March would be the earliest title triumph in Bundesliga history. Curiously enough, the Bavarian giants have never secured a league title at their Allianz Arena. They have either come on the road (10 of the last 11) or due to results elsewhere when Bayern weren't playing (2014/15).
Bayern knew they would have to wait another week to be crowned champions after second-placed Schalke's win at home to Freiburg earlier in the day, but that didn't stop the Reds delivering 90 minutes of champagne football in Der Klassiker. James was the catalyst for Dortmund's downfall with a goal and two assists, while Franck Ribery put in a vintage display, capped by a delightful chipped effort as Bayern went in at the break with a 5-0 lead. Lewandowski, once the hero of BVB, completed his hat-trick late in the second half to leave Bayern one win from domestic glory.
Watch: James Rodriguez stole the show in Der Klassiker
Jaime Duque Cevallos