It would, of course, be foolish to write off Bayern Munich’s chances of claiming a record seventh Bundesliga title in succession, but a fifth of the way through the season five teams sit above them in the table. bundesliga.com digs deeper to find out which one stands the best chance of dethroning the champions.
Borussia Dortmund – 1st, 17 points
Before the season even began, Dortmund looked like they had a squad that was made of sterner stuff. Now they’ve proved it. Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney have added steel and know-how to midfield, while supersubs Jadon Sancho and Paco Alcacer continue to reach new heights.
Already at this early stage, opposing teams know that they could be on the end of a real hammering if US star Christian Pulisic and his BVB teammates are in the mood — like when they beat Nuremburg 7-0 on Matchday 5.
They have also learned that Dortmund won’t fold if they’re in a tough spot away from home – the thrilling comeback from 2-0 down at Bayer Leverkusen demonstrated that. As if more proof were needed that the 2018/19 team will take a lot of killing off, Lucien Favre’s men came from behind twice to beat Augsburg 4-3 on Matchday 7.
Watch: Marco Reus is well and truly flying under Lucien Favre at Dortmund
English teenager Sancho has seven assists already, while the prolific Alcacer has six goals in three league appearances – all from the bench – to lead the Bundesliga scoring charts. With the experienced Favre calling the shots off the pitch and skipper Marco Reus implementing them on it, unbeaten Dortmund might be dreaming of a first league crown since 2012. Beat Bayern at home in the first Klassiker of the season on 10 November, and then they can really start to believe.
RB Leipzig – 2nd, 14 points
Upstarts Leipzig pushed Bayern hard in their first year in the Bundesliga, before the champions opened up a three-point gap they never relinquished with a 3-0 victory late in 2016.
A sixth-placed finish and a run to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals was a good return in 2017/18, but some people might have expected Leipzig to struggle this season following the departures of midfield linchpin Naby Keita and head coach Ralph Hasenhüttl.
Since then though, they have hardly put a foot wrong. Timo Werner, Yussuf Poulsen and Jean-Kevin Augustin have 11 goals between them for the league’s second top scorers, with the former getting his 50th Bundesliga goal in the 6-0 demolition of Nuremburg.
“We’re on the right track,” Leipzig boss Ralf Rangnick said following that game. “If we keep that up, we can achieve a lot this season.”
In Rangnick, Leipzig have a wily coach who relishes upsetting the apple cart. The 60-year-old was autumn champion with newly promoted Hoffenheim back in 2008, and guided Schalke to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals and DFB Cup glory in 2011. The club’s sporting director is only keeping the coach's seat warm until Julian Nagelsmann takes over next season, but could he pull off his biggest trick yet by leading Leipzig to the title?
Borussia Mönchengladbach – 3rd, 14 pts
Gladbach sounded a warning on the opening weekend by taking out a Leverkusen side that finished fifth last season. Further home wins followed against last season’s runners-up Schalke and DFB Cup winners Eintracht Frankfurt, but a 3-0 road win at Bayern on Matchday 7 has really caught the eye.
“We’re happy that we’ve achieved something exceptional, but we have to keep on giving our all in the next few games,” said club captain Lars Stindl, who scored in Munich on his return from injury. “To get results in the Bundesliga, you have to constantly invest everything.”
Alassane Plea got the opener against the champions, and the Foals are flying since the French striker’s arrival from Nice over the summer. The 25-year-old has netted five times in his first seven Bundesliga appearances, while Thorgan Hazard has been doing a decent impression of his older brother – Belgium and Chelsea star Eden – by weighing in with three goals and an assist. Stindl’s return is a major boost, and, in Yann Sommer, Gladbach have a 'keeper who seems to be in the form of his life.
As strong as ever at home, Dieter Hecking’s side are not renowned for good away form. But if the current crop can win so comfortably at Bayern, could they emulate the great Gladbach teams of the 1970s?
Werder Bremen - 4th, 14 points
Bayern have won the league at a canter in recent seasons, but not so long ago they were regularly challenged by a host of other teams. Werder Bremen were one such club, winning the double in 2004 thanks in no small part to French playmaker Johan Micoud and a deadly strike duo of Ivan Klasnic and Ailton.
Are the Green-Whites about to get back to that level again? A period when – fired by future World Cup winner Miroslav Klose – they twice finished second to Bayern and came close again in 2007?
Watch: How Florian Kohfeldt has turned Werder into title contenders
Led by crafty forward Max Kruse and evergreen Claudio Pizarro – and with US youngster Josh Sargent waiting in the wings – Bremen’s squad is greater than the sum of its parts. Ex-Ajax and Everton midfielder Davy Klaassen is quickly finding his feet too with two goals and an assist in his side’s impressive start.
“We are pleased with our points return so far and feel that we are playing some good football,” Kruse said after the 2-0 win over Wolfsburg on Matchday 7. “But we also know that the season is long. It’ll be nice if we can be towards the top at the end though.”
Bremen are yet to lose a game at home since Florian Kohfeldt took over in October 2017, and already have two away wins this season. Keep that kind of form going and the good times will well and truly be back at the Weserstadion.
Hertha Berlin – 5th, 14 points
A former Berlin mayor once described the German capital as “poor, but sexy”, and this season the latter part of that statement is definitely true as regards the city’s top-flight football team. Pal Dardai’s side are playing attractive football, and getting results to boot.
Promoted in 2013, Hertha had three top-10 finishes in the past three seasons. Now Dardai has decided that more flair is required if the Old Lady are to at least repeat the fourth-place finish they achieved under Lucien Favre in 2009.
Watch: See how Hertha toppled Bayern on Matchday 6
Actual new recruit Javairo Dilrosun has added further verve – as well as two goals and three assists – while Austria’s Valentino Lazaro is also thriving. Captain Vedad Ibisevic has five goals and - along with fellow veteran Salomon Kalou - is the ideal player to guide Hertha’s youngsters.
“We’re not Barcelona,” Norwegian midfielder Per Skjelbred said after that match. “On our day we can beat anyone, but every team can play football in the Bundesliga. We’ll take the point and stick at it.”
That kind of humility suggests that Hertha’s players are not getting carried away. But can they maintain their superb start to the season?