The showdown between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig wasn’t the spectacle it was cracked up to be, but the Bundesliga title race still could be. And as consequential as that game seemed, Leipzig sporting director Markus Krösche put it best when he told kicker before the match:
It is a super game, but not a final. Nothing will be decided on Sunday – neither for us nor for Bayern.
Indeed, there are 13 games left to play. Both sides still have to play Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen. Both have Champions League commitments that could factor into their league form.
The two draws between Bayern and Leipzig this season, by definition, mean that a title race between them will be decided by how they perform against the other 16 teams in the division.
Should the Bundesliga be won by one of these two sides, here are the factors that could come into play.
Bayern dealt with their fair share of bad injury luck, but their squad has not seemed too thin or overworked this season. Alphonso Davies’ emergence has helped greatly in that department, as has Thomas Müller’s renaissance under Hansi Flick. The returns of Lucas Hernandez and Kingsley Coman are also positive developments, giving Bayern more than enough to handle three competitions the rest of the way.
Leipzig also has more depth than most teams in Germany, but their defense is currently in shambles. Injuries to Willi Orban and Ibrahima Konate have forced Julian Nagelsmann to use Marcel Halstenberg and Lukas Klostermann as center-backs. With recently signed Angeliño playing more of a wing-back role, Nordi Mukiele is the only defender Leipzig has as cover – Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu has played 48 minutes over two league games.
Head coach: Nagelsmann vs Flick
Julian Nagelsmann established a reputation at Hoffenheim for the fact that his sides tended to finish the season strong. Under Nagelsmann, Hoffenheim averaged 1.92 points per game over their last 10 league games from 2016 to 2019.
Their first late-season push under Nagelsmann in 2015-16 lifted them out of the relegation zone. Two seasons later, Hoffenheim rose from ninth to third in the table after collecting 24 points over their last 10 games.
None of those Hoffenheim sides had other competitions to contend with. That could also be the case for Leipzig if Tottenham knocks them out of the Champions League.
Hansi Flick has no such track record, but that’s because he has almost no track record whatsoever as a head coach in the Bundesliga. Whether or not he can lead a team to a title is an open question, because there is no obvious an answer.
What Flick has going for him, however, is the fact that Bayern is scoring 2.47 points per game since he took over. That is a higher average than Niko Kovac, Carlo Ancelotti, and Pep Guardiola achieved while in Munich.
Edge: Leipzig, purely based on track record
Strength of schedule
According to restprogramm.com, a website that calculates the difficulty of each team’s schedule for the rest of the season, Bayern and Leipzig have an equally difficult fixture list the rest of the way.
Bayern collected 26 points in the Hinrunde, or the first half of the season, against their remaining opponents, outscoring them 35 to 19. Leipzig collected 28 points in the Hinrunde against their remaining adversaries with a goal ratio of 39 to 18.
As mentioned above, both clubs have to square off against Dortmund and Leverkusen. Bayern will have to play both of those fixtures away while Leipzig will face both of these potentially top-four sides at home.
Leipzig, however, has to face Dortmund on the penultimate matchday, but that fixture is sandwiched between games against Augsburg and Düsseldorf. Bayern’s last three games are against Werder Bremen, Freiburg and Wolfsburg.
To this point, both Bayern and Leipzig have played the same amount of games. But Leipzig’s elimination from the German Cup removes three potential games to play. It’s also worth noting that, should Bayern make it to the semifinals of the DFB Pokal (3-0 and 5-0 wins over the Königsblauen makes that highly likely), the Bavarians would have to host Borussia Mönchengladbach the following matchday.
Who will advance farther in the Champions League is a separate debate (comment with who you think who has the easier path to the quarterfinals, Bayern over Chelsea or Leipzig over Tottenham!). Neither side has a tougher run-in after their Round of 16 games either – Bayern faces Hoffenheim away and Eintracht Frankfurt at home, while Leipzig hosts Bremen and has to travel to Leverkusen.
However, if both teams advance to the quarterfinals, Bayern would host Düsseldorf (not too bad) after the first leg and play Leverkusen away (the real issue) after the second. Leipzig, meanwhile, would be in the midst of a soft portion of their schedule, facing Paderborn and Cologne during and after a potential Champions League quarterfinal tie.
Managing multiple competitions
Flick may not have a track record, but Bayern certainly does. Their seven consecutive league titles speak for themselves, but it’s also important to point out that they have also collected the most points in the Rückrunde, or the second half of the season, in each of the previous four seasons.
This is despite making trips to the later stages of the German Cup and the Champions League – at least under Jupp Heynckes in 2017-18. In fact, Bayern has played at least 50 games in all but one of their last seven Bundesliga title campaigns.
Leipzig’s form dropped off significantly in the Rückrunde, in their first two seasons in the top flight in 2016-17 and 2017-18. That was despite the fact that, in 2016-17, they played just 35 games after being eliminated in the first round of the German Cup.
That wasn’t the case last season – their 35 points were second only to the Bavarians. But their elimination from the Europa League group stage probably contributed to their second-half success.
When it comes to winning on three fronts, only one team in Germany has shown the capacity to be able to do it.
Edge: Bayern, clearly