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Bundesliga Return: Bayern Munich’s Season So Far

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Bayern Munich's Bundesliga return

As per usual, Bayern Munich started the 2019/20 Bundesliga as the champions of Germany, winning their seventh consecutive league title on the last day of the 2018/19 season, narrowly clinching the top spot away from Borussia Dortmund by two points.

Returning from a summer pre-season tour abroad in the USA, Bayern were eager to continue their Bundesliga dominance, and with the retirement of Arjen Robben and departures of long-standing key players, Mats Hummels and Frank Ribery, manager Niko Kovac saw fit to go into the transfer market to seek out new additions in order to continue where the Bavarians had left off.

Let's take a look at where Bayern are at ahead of the Bundesliga return and how Dortmund are so close to battling them once again.

Troublesome start

The Reds spent a sum of around £129 million in the summer, mainly in defensive areas, replacing Hummels with the £72m transfer of Atletico Madrid defender Lucas Hernandez, and spending a further £31m on French full-back, Benjamin Pavard.

Kovac also managed to complete the loan signings of Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona and Ivan Perisic from Inter Milan. Overall, this was a seemingly very successful summer transfer window and good performances against Real Madrid, Arsenal and AC Milan in their pre-season tour was foreshadowing of a good season to come for Bayern once more.

However, the league champions had a more difficult beginning to their 2019/20 campaign than expected, losing 2-0 to their rivals Dortmund in the German Supercup, and only managing 18 points in their first 10 games, putting them at fourth in the table.

Poor results, including draws with Hertha Berlin, RB Leipzig and Augsburg, and a loss at home to Hoffenheim, culminated in a devastating 5-1 away defeat to ninth place Eintracht Frankfurt.

Further misery was added to the Allianz faithful, as both centre backs sustained long-term injuries, as new signing Hernandez suffered a cracked ankle, putting him out of action for almost four months, and Nicolas Sule suffered an ACL knee injury which would see him out for the remainder of the season.

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Managerial changes

The disappointing and lacklustre start to the campaign meant manager Niko Kovac’s job was under scrutiny, with the Munich board giving the Croatian a time limit on his job, should results continue to disappoint. It's simple at a club like Bayern: you get to the top or you're out.

Strangely and surprisingly to fans and pundits alike, Kovac opted to resign from his role in charge at the club, paving the way for his assistant coach to be assigned as the caretaker manager, Hans-Dieter Flick.

Previously being criticised for only being able to perform against the weaker teams this season, Flick’s appointment saw Bayern reverse this by thrashing Lucien Favre’s Dortmund 4-0, hinting at a possible turning point in the season for the Bavarian side.

Flick’s decision to re-appoint Thomas Muller and Leon Goretzka in midfield, instead of the hit or miss Coutinho, further ensured better performances and result. Munich went on to win seven consecutive games which saw them reach the top of the table in early February once again. A position they have not let go since.

The German’s impact has also seen the Bayern board decide to extend his contract in charge of the club into a permanent deal that will keep him at the club until 2023. Flick’s 18 wins out of 21 matches was praised by Bayern chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and “the team’s development and attractive football, under his leadership”.

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Highly impressive performances from Serge Gnabry and, league top scorer, Robert Lewandowski, contributed to the unbeaten streak in the Bundesliga. A goalless draw to German up and comers, RB Leipzig, was the only loss of points to come for the next four league matches, as Munich went on to make it 12 games in a row unbeaten.

Flick’s influence on the Munich players has seemingly been positive thus far, enabling the Bavarian side to regain their position at the top of the Bundesliga, four points ahead of Dortmund with nine games remaining.

Fan favourite and Bayern loyal servant, Thomas Muller, also agreed a contract extension to 2023 which will see him add to his 500 appearances for Bayern, where the 30-year-old has played for all of his professional career.

By the time the league returns to playing behind closed doors, Munich’s injury list would also have shortened with Gnabry, Hernandez and Perisic already training and Sule expected to return from his injury, giving Bayern fans confidence they will be able to finish the season as league winners.

The return of these players will also give a needed squad depth for Flick and ease the worries of the looming danger from Dortmund, who are just four points behind them. As usual, the clubs have been running with each other in this title race, and it could well be as close as last season.

With the addition of Erling Haaland, Dortmund themselves are on an unbeaten streak and have their own Lewandowksi-esque talisman up top. The two clubs still have to play in the Bundesliga and this could well be a title decider in some aspects.

Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach are also in their remaining league fixtures, which are no easy ties. Holding off Dortmund and Leipzig who are five behind is going to be no easy task, and Bayern's grip on their 29th title is loose.

By Bradley Beecham