It was never going to be easy to catch Bayern Munich, but Borussia Dortmund has made quite an effort in the second half of the season. They are on pace to set a club record in points, but Sunday’s draw with bitter rival Schalke 04 drops them seven points back of the league leaders.
With five matches remaining the maximum point total that Dortmund can achieve will be 83. Bayern needs just 8 points in their final five games to achieve reach that mark and given Bayern’s sizable goal differential it’s unlikely that Dortmund can win the tiebreaker. Bayern can still lose two of their final five matches and Dortmund won’t be able to catch them.
Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel had a tough choice to make on Sunday. Given that his side had just played on Thursday and the fact that a vital trip to Liverpool looms large this week, his team sheet didn’t look as imposing as it could have been. Tuchel defended his team selection, saying that the team has been heavily taxed recently, as well as their own extensive video analysis suggested the side could get a result in Gelsenkirchen.
For most of the first half, neither side looked like it was in complete control. Both sides had chances, with the best falling to 17-year-old American international Christian Pulisic who made his first Bundesliga start for Dortmund.
The second half saw both sides trade goals twice, as the tempo picked up quickly. Tuchel, by this point, had brought on Pierre-Emerik Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan who helped Dortmund immensely, but it wasn’t enough of a difference and the match ended 2-2.
It’s hard to say that Tuchel had his tactics wrong, especially considering how hard fought this derby can be. Tuchel didn’t start a reserve team either. He put out players that he felt could win him the match, and they nearly did. Pulisic, only 17, looked entirely comfortable throughout the match. It was in encouraging development for Dortmund’s future, not to mention the USMNT’s.
and another step for our youngster Christian Pulisic: @BVB #USMNThttps://t.co/ZjrOaUTTiS
— Jürgen Klinsmann (@J_Klinsmann) April 10, 2016
Despite the fact that it was a very exciting match, the unpleasant truth for Dortmund is they are still seven points back of Bayern. On Saturday, Bayern handled VfB Stuttgart with relative ease and put pressure on BVB to get a result. They didn’t get the result they needed, and now they need to find a way to whittle Bayern’s seven-point lead down in only 5 matchdays. Dortmund had to go on a string of wins after the winter break just to get Bayern’s lead down from eight points to five.
Both teams now have to look at their remaining schedule, and this is Dortmund’s last hope. Dortmund’s schedule is moderately more forgiving. Meetings with Hamburg, Frankfurt and Stuttgart are all definitely winnable. Bayern meanwhile has to play three teams in a hunt for a Champions League spot, third place Hertha Berlin, Schalke and Borussia Mönchengladbach, a side that throttled the record champions earlier this season. The bad news is that the math is stacked against BVB, wins against just one of those 3 teams and wins against the other opponents that Bayern should be beating and Dortmund will have lost the league.
It’s been a great season for the Bundesliga. What had been, in recent years, a one-horse race from the word go turned into a genuine title race this season. Dortmund’s pace to set a club record in points shouldn’t be overlooked. They are technically not out of it, even if it’s a long shot. But just as important, they are still among the favorites to win the Europa League.
They are also in the semi-finals of the DFB Pokal, if they can get passed Berlin and Bayern beat Bremen, then the two sides will have one more meeting. If Bayern does what is probably inevitable in the League at this point, then a Dortmund victory in Berlin on May 21 might be a nice consolation prize for the Black and Yellow. Especially if Bayern is still chasing a treble.