The Bundesliga season is fast approaching its climax, and Bayern Munich are in poll position to win another league title. Just four days earlier, they secured their most important win since the restart, brushing aside Borussia Dortmund in Der Klassiker.
After a successful business trip to North Rhine-Westphalia, Bayern were back in familiar surroundings when they welcomed Fortuna Düsseldorf to the Allianz. As first place welcomed 16th, there was only going to be one outcome.
Bayern were never going to take it easy and sit back, coming out of the blocks at full speed and and with ferocious intensity. An own goal from Düsseldorf defender Zanka wasn’t the traditional way to open the floodgates, but all that mattered was that the ball was in Florian Kastenmeier’s net. Bayern were off the mark.
Benjamin Pavard doubled Die Roten’s lead with a powerful header, before Robert Lewandowski scored twice either side of the break. His first was worked wonderfully across and slotted his effort home with ease, while his second was a sumptuous backheel leaving Kastenmeier flat-footed.
Alphonso Davies wrapped it up with an explosive dribble through Düsseldorf’s back four, putting it past the keeper in style. A five-star performance wrapped up with five sensational goals deservedly put Hans-Dieter Flick’s side 10 points clear at the summit of the Bundesliga table.
Bayern were flawless on Saturday. Not a foot put wrong by the Bavarians, with five goals and another disciplined defensive performance, helping record a fifth clean sheet in six games. The drive and determination was astonishing: a rather dire Düsseldorf were simply no match.
The result was no surprise given Bayern’s form this year. The 5-0 drubbing makes it 15 games unbeaten, with eight wins on the bounce and not a single defeat in 2020: it’s May.
Hans-Dieter Flick arrived in Bavaria greeted by a broken puzzle. It wasn’t a bad one – far from it – but it was certainly dismantled and without much order or cohesion. The individual pieces were some of the best on offer, with Manuel Neuer, Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry to name a few.
But it needed to be reassembled, and how.
The contrast between the end of 2019 and now shows just how much of an impact Flick has had. They sat in seventh when he took over, following back to back defeats to Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Fast forward five months, and that is the last time Bayern lost a game of football.
Flick’s work has been miraculous: it took six games to return them to their rightful spot top of the Bundesliga, and they haven’t budged since. Saturday’s victory proved that all the pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place, and not a single one is missing.
Manuel Neuer only had a clean sheet rate of 25% in his first 16 league games - that figure is up to 69% in the fixtures since then. Bayern had a win rate of 50% in their opening 14 league games- they’ve won 93% of their Bundesliga games from that point on.
The transformation has been remarkable, and this five-goal showing is just more proof that Bayern are back to their very, very best. The team performance on Saturday was perfect in every sense of the word, not to mention the individual performances.
Lewandowski was ruthless in front of goal, as his brace took his tally up to 29 goals in 27 Bundesliga appearances. Thomas Müller was the driving force in attack as ever, recording his 18th assist of the season. Alphonso Davies was unplayable on the left flank, even getting in on the goalscoring action himself.
That’s not to mention Joshua Kimmich’s incredible shift, Leon Goretzka’s fantastic recoveries or Benjamin Pavard’s hidden attacking prowess. All 11 players executed their job to perfection, without fault, without hesitation, without any doubt.
There were concerns that the puzzle might have fallen out of the place over the two-month pause, but not even the coronavirus pandemic could hamper Bayern’s form. They picked up exactly where they left off, winning all four games in convincing fashion since the return of German football.
Now 10 points clear of Borussia Dortmund, Bayern have their fingertips on the Meisterschaft shield.
Three more wins will do it. Victories in their next trio of fixtures against Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Werder Bremen will seal the title, ending what has been a remarkable comeback and climb back up the table.
If Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig drop any more points, Bayern can clinch the title even earlier. It would be poetic if they did so against Bayer or Mönchengladbach, the two sides who humiliated them in defeat all those months ago.
The pieces have fallen into place, and it’s time for Bayern to see the final puzzle in all its glory.