There's a reason why Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeneß ruled out any winter signings following the narrow 3-2 loss to Borussia Dortmund. The defending champions don't need any…

The 3-2 defeat was exactly that - narrow - and masks the fact that, for at least the first 45 minutes, Bayern swamped the unbeaten Bundesliga leaders on their way to establishing a deserved 1-0 lead. And while their intensity levels dipped in the face of some unrelenting BVB attacks, there was more than enough to suggest Niko Kovac's side have the quality to eat up the seven-point deficit to the summit in the months ahead. takes a closer look at the blueprint for Bayern's inevitable resurgence…

The defence: older and wiser

Manuel Neuer in goal; Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels at the heart of the defence; and Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba at full-back. It's a tried and tested formula that - whilst not as watertight as in previous seasons (Bayern have shipped 14 goals after 11 matches compared to the eight, seven, four, three, seven and four at the same stage in their last six, title-winning campaigns) - boasts a collective experience factor totalling some 1198 Bundesliga appearances. Two-time Bundesliga winner Niklas Süle - a second-half substitute in Dortmund and the youngest of the bunch at 23 - is fast approaching his 150th outing.

Klassiker counterparts Marwin Hitz, Lukasz Piszczek, Manuel Akanji, Dan-Axel Zagadou and Achraf Hakimi, by comparison, have collected 459 top-flight outings between them - albeit with Hitz and Piszczek accounting for 90 per cent of the total. Injured for the visit of Bayern, first-choice goalkeeper Roman Bürki has 137 games under his belt, while defender Abdou Diallo has just the one full season of Bundesliga football behind him. Of the lot, Piszczek is the only member of the current Dortmund defence to have taken the fight to Bayern and won, claiming Bundesliga gold in 2011 and 2012 under Jürgen Klopp.

In the fierce heat of a 34-game title race, age - and by extension, experience - will be a massive help to Bayern's table-topping aspirations rather than a hindrance.

Watch: Manuel Neuer reflects on the positives of Bayern's loss to Dortmund

The midfield: changing of the guard

Much like the back four, there was nothing out of the ordinary about Kovac's midfield set-up against Dortmund. Javi Martinez was tasked with sentry duties in front of the defence; Serge Gnabry and Franck Ribery took up positions on the right- and left-hand flanks respectively; while Leon Goretzka and Thomas Müller operated through the middle.

Of the starting quintet, Gnabry was the standout. The Germany international had a direct hand in both Bayern goals, and gave Dortmund left-back Hakimi a torrid time until being replaced by Renato Sanches with 16 minutes of normal time remaining. Based on that performance alone, even a fully fit Arjen Robben - one of a handful of high-profile midfield absentees in Dortmund - may struggle to win back his place on the right wing. It's a welcome selection headache, in any case.

Serge Gnabry has produced one goal and two assists in 10 Bundesliga appearances in 2018/19. © gettyimages / Alexander Hassenstein

The remaining three positions in the line of four behind lone striker Robert Lewandowski provide food for thought in equal measure. Goretzka, Müller and Ribery all had their moments of impulsion against Dortmund, but there was more than just a murmuring that Thiago, Corentin Tolisso and Kingsley Coman would have been preferred had they been fit. Thiago had started every game this term until injury stuck at the end of October, while the impending return of France pair Tolisso and Coman is one of the chief reasons the club won’t be forced into any panic buys. "They'll be like new signings," Hoeness warned.

It's a frightening proposition. Pound for pound - not forgetting James Rodriguez, Sanches and incoming Canadian whizz-kid Alphonso Davies - Bayern have the best midfield contingent in the Bundesliga, and that's before we've even seen what could well be their most potent variation. Dortmund coach Lucien Favre may hold all the cards at the time of writing (Sancho-Witsel-Delaney-Bruun Larsen), but just wait until Kovac is in a position to raise the stakes: Gnabry-Thiago-Tolisso-Coman.

Corentin Tolisso (l.) and Kingsley Coman (r.) are edging closer to a return to first-team action. © imago

The fox in the box: Lewandowski

One area where Kovac won't be twisting any time soon is in attack. Lewandowski brought up his sixth and seventh Bundesliga goals of the campaign in Dortmund, preying on the relative inexperience of Akanji and Zagadou in a lone striker's masterclass. He found the back of the net with all four of his attempts on goal at the Signal Iduna Park, only to have two of his three second-half efforts chalked off for offside.

That innate nose for goal together with his raw physicality and bullet-proof conditioning make for one formidable hand. Lewandowski has only missed 11 Bundesliga matches since joining Bayern from Dortmund in summer 2014, smashing in some 136 league goals. Although he is four down on his tally compared to the same juncture in 2017/18 - when he went on to scoop his third top scorer’s prize with 29 goals - the 30-year-old's powers are anything but on the wane.

If Bayern's first-rate frontman had the 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign's second tightest defence in his pocket in Der Klassiker, it's fair to assume he'll run roughshod over the rest of the opposition once the supply line is fit and firing on all cylinders.

Bayern Munich No.9 Robert Lewandowski (r.) was unplayable against Borussia Dortmund in Der Klassiker. © gettyimages / Christof Stache

Besides, it's not like Lewandowski and Co. haven't been 'off the pace' before. Remember when Bayern trailed Dortmund by five points last autumn? Remember how they went on to defend their title at a canter, finishing some 21 points clear of nearest pursuers Schalke? Exactly.

It's not over yet - not by a long shot.

Chris Mayer-Lodge

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