Germany Ready for Title Showdown

"I know you don't want to hear this, but we did just make the Bundesliga a bit more exciting," joked Martin Schmidt, the proud manager of Mainz 05, after his side's shock 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday.  Mainz's surprise win moved them into fifth place in the league, and also helped Borussia Dortmund cut the gap on Bayern Munich to five points. Whilst Bayern dropped their first points at the Allianz Arena this season, Borussia Dortmund comfortably won 2-0 at Darmstadt. 

And the chance for Dortmund to cut the gap down to just two points arrives on Saturday when Bayern Munich travel to the Westfalenstadion in the clash touted as 'Der Klassiker'.
For the next few days at least, then, title race talk can return to Germany. So, how realistic is any form of challenge from Thomas Tuchel's Dortmund side? 

The same facts remain from August. With it being Tuchel's first season at Dortmund after his summer switch from Mainz, the 42-year-old is inexperienced, and although this hasn't held him and his squad back thus far, it may give an experienced Bayern side, who have won the Bundesliga three times on the bounce, the edge come April and May.
Tuchel’s side have a tricky run-in, too, after Bayern they face a trip to fierce rivals Schalke and a home game against last season’s second place side Wolfsburg.
On the flip side, Bayern's lack of fit central defenders is a worry for the champions. Pep Guardiola brought former Stuttgart defender Serdar Tasci in on loan from Spartak Moscow in January, a signing that, without disrespect to the 28-year-old, epitomises their injury troubles.
Guardiola has come under pressure for his tactics off the pitch at times during his Bayern tenure, no more so than when his comments forced almost his entire medical team, including club doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt, to resign claiming they were 'blamed' for a defeat.
And now, with Guardiola leaving for Manchester City in the summer, the Spaniard is under even more scrutiny than usual. Initially, the pressure seemed to be dealt with easily. But in recent weeks things have been a little bit more shaky, the 2-1 defeat at home to Mainz was the first time that Bayern have failed to collect all three points at the Allianz Arena this campaign, however they found themselves behind against Darmstadt at half-time just a couple of weeks ago, and were a tad fortunate to see off Wolfsburg at the weekend.
For Tuchel and Dortmund, expectations are not great, coming into this season the aim was to return to the Champions League - it's already a good season. For Bayern, it’s the total opposite. Some even suggest that anything but a treble is failure - after all Jupp Heynckes won the treble in his last season with the club. 

Bayern remain title favourites with ten games to go, nobody doubts that, and talk of the title race may just die again if the Bavarians leave Dortmund with three points come 7:30 on Saturday.
However, with 80,000 fans, including the always vibrant 'yellow wall', behind them and players such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Dortmund are more than capable of making this even more interesting than it already is. 

There's one certainty at this stage: Saturday's match is the biggest that the top end of the Bundesliga has seen in a good while.
Bayern Remaining Fixtures:
Dortmund (A)
Werder Bremen (H)
Cologne (A)
Eintracht Frankfurt (H)
Stuttgart (A)
Schalke (H)
Hertha Berlin (A)
Gladbach (H)
Ingolstadt (A)
Hannover (H)
Dortmund Remaining Fixtures:
Bayern (H)
Mainz (H)
Augsburg (A)
Werder Bremen (H)
Schalke (A)
Hamburg (H)
Stuttgart (A)
Wolfsburg (H)
Eintracht Frankfurt (A)
Cologne (H)

Last Five Bundesliga Meetings:

Bayern Munich 5-1 Borussia Dortmund (04/10/15)
Borussia Dortmund 0-1 Bayern Munich (04/04/15)
Bayern Munich 2-1 Borussia Dortmund (01/11/14)
Bayern Munich 0-3 Borussia Dortmund (12/04/14)
Borussia Dortmund 0-3 Bayern Munich (23/11/13)

Article by Jonny Clark