The Bundesliga has been a two-horse race for the last three years, and even that might be over if Bayern Munich get the best of the injury-struck Borussia Dortmund when the two Champions League finalists from last season meet over the weekend. In the Premier League, it’s the Merseyside Derby that takes most of the attention with Liverpool and Everton clashing, but Arsenal against the very surprising Southampton is just as important to the top 4 picture if not more.
But the German ‘match of the season’ has been Europe’s best game for a couple of years now. Dortmund might not be a team with the biggest names in the game, but Jurgen Klopp and the continuity he preaches has turned this club into a group that’s shielded from big transfers that take their toll on mid-level clubs over the years. The right players come in for those that have left, and everything is fine as long as injuries don’t get in the way.
Bayern Munich are working in a different way – there is long term thinking, home grown players, but that goes along with big spending and building a huge squad. Last year that combination was too much for everyone, and after a dull and critical start of Pep Guardiola’s work at the Allianz Arena, it seems to be going in the same direction this year as well.
Dortmund have already beaten Bayern once this season (German Super Cup), but even without Ribery playing, the momentum and differences between the teams are too hard to ignore. Leverkusen are also in the championship race at the moment, but it’s hard to see them holding on for a very long time. If Bayern open a 7-point lead to carry with them into the winter break, it’s going to be impossible to stop them from winning a second-consecutive league championship.
Things are a bit tighter in England right now, more open. There are six clubs that see themselves as championship contenders, including Manchester City and their awful away record, only 8th at the moment. Everton are sixth with five wins, five draws and a loss. At home they’re undefeated, but it’s also been a very long time since they’ve beaten Liverpool (2006) in a league match. A win at Goodison Park, and it won’t only put a serious dent into Liverpool’s title chances, but proclaim Everton as another club that might be part of the leading pack for the long run.
Arsenal, in the thick of their rough stretch, play at home against Southampton. The same team that handed Liverpool their only loss of the season (at Anfield) and drew with Manchester United at Old Trafford. Dropping points against the Saints won’t just mean that Mauricio Pochettino and his team are for real, but it will feed the flames talking about Arsenal starting to slow down, and maybe fall apart, as always.