Every major European football league has its set of “top dogs”, a group of clubs expected to fight at the top and win the title.
Rarely does a club outside of this cartel win major accolades and when they do, it sends shock waves throughout the footballing universe. It makes history.
We still talk about the epic Leicester title win for the same reason.
In the Premier League, the Big Six make up this group. In Spain, it is the two Madrid clubs and Barcelona. In Italy, it is a little more open, with Juventus and the Milan duo.
For Germany’s Bundesliga, Dortmund and Bayern Munich have been the two that end up at the top come to the business end of the season.
These clubs start pulling away from the rest of the pack very early on to establish their dominance. The focus for them then shifts to European endeavors.
To illustrate the same, let’s take a look at the Bundesliga table from last season after 11 games were played.
Bayern Munich, the eventual champions, were on 28 points, Dortmund on 24, and SC Freiburg on 22. Already a 6-point gap between the first and third. Between first and eighth-placed Union Berlin? 11 points.
One year later though, things are very different in Germany.
Union Berlin have started the season in an unexpectedly good fashion and sits at the top of the league table with 23 points, followed by Munich and Freiburg who are at 22 and 21 points. Close at the top, you might think.
But this one-point difference continues all the way down till the 8th place. RB Leipzig have taken the 8th spot but only by virtue of goal difference.
Borussia Monchengladbach and FC Koln also have the same number of points and make up the top 10. Werder Bremen are only a point off the trio and Augsburg are only a point off Bremen.
Oof. That’s competitive, to say the least.
And this has not meant that football quality has taken a hit. The teams are playing progressive and attacking football. Just take a look at the weekend gone by.
The absence of Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland has also opened up the race for the top scorer of the league. And a similar race to the top can be seen there.
The competitiveness is a refreshing change for fans of the sport, especially supporters of the German league, who have seen Munich wrap up the title without a significant challenge year after year.
There are no more forgone conclusions and anyone can beat anyone in the league.
Over the years, Bundesliga has been called boring, monotonous, routine, and even mockingly termed as a “farmers league” because of Munich’s dominance.
For this reason, viewership has been the least of Europe’s top 5 leagues. In fact, Liga Apertura of Mexico and MLS of the USA attract more audiences than the German league.
This year though, it may all change. If Union Berlin and the chasers continue to put on a show, audiences will certainly flock to watch.
After all, all anyone wants is a good fight to the finish. Not a procession.