Bayern Munich enter December seven points clear in the Bundesliga and seemingly certain of another German title despite another six months left in the season.
It may seem simplistic to suggest Bayern already have their 25th German league title in the bag with November barely over.
But Pep Guardiola’s Bavarian giants are on course to beat last season’s record of winning the title with seven games to spare and it will take an exceptional performance by one of their rivals to bridge the gap.
At the same stage last year, Bayern had a four-point lead, compared to the seven they currently hold.
They have already qualified for the Champions League last 16 as group winners despite Tuesday’s 3-2 defeat at Manchester City, their first loss of the season.
Second-placed Wolfsburg stayed at the front of the pack chasing Bayern with Sunday’s 1-0 win over Borussia Moenchengladbach and a showdown beckons with Wolves being Munich’s first league opponents of 2015.
Lucien Favre’s Gladbach had briefly threatened to be title contenders when they held Bayern to a goalless draw last month, but Borussia’s defeat on Sunday leaves them lagging 13 points behind the leaders in fifth.
Injuries barely impact on Guardiola’s massive star-studded squad who edged a 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin on Saturday with nearly 80 per cent possession.
Captain Philipp Lahm is out until 2015 with a fractured ankle, as is left-back David Alaba who has a knee injury, while neither defensive midfielders Javi Martinez nor Bastian Schweinsteiger had started a single match this season.
Long-term injury victims midfielder Thiago Alcantara and defender Holger Badstuber will only intensify the battle for places in Guardiola’s starting line-up when they return in 2015.
– Dortmund slump –
Nevertheless, Bayern’s Allianz Arena remains a hard place for opponents to claim points.
“Bayern will lose at home sooner or later, but when you lose there four, five or six-nil, that’s normal,” mused Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol recently before his side were duly dispatched 4-0 in Munich.
Having finished runners-up for the last two seasons, Borussia Dortmund are bottom of the table after the worst start to a league season in the club’s history after eight defeats in 12 games following Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Bayern have signed stars Mario Goetze and Robert Lewandowski from Dortmund in the last two years and chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has revealed Borussia’s winger Marco Reus, who has a release clause worth 25 million euros in his contract, is also on their radar.
“We don’t have to weaken anybody. Every transfer has exclusively one goal: to strengthen the team’s quality,” said Rummenigge on the subject.
But weaken Dortmund is precisely what Bayern threaten to do for a third season running.
Goetze and Lewandowski’s combined tally of 13 goals this season would have almost certainly eased Borussia’s dire league form had they been scored in the yellow and black jersey instead of Bayern’s red.
And it looks like Bayern will only get stronger with the Bavarians in rude health both on and off the pitch.
Record figures of 528.7 million euros ($657.9m, £421m) turnover for the 2013/14 season were announced in Friday’s annual general meeting with a profit of 16.5 million euros, up from 14 million euros twelve months earlier.
“It’s a real joy every morning just coming into the office,” Rummenigge told Bild.
“I just dream that we can reduce the cycle of winning the Champions League — we go too long between winning (European) titles.
“Until our victory in 2001, we had waited 25 years, then we waited another 12 years for the 2013 triumph.”
Guardiola won the league and club double in his first season, as well as the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup, and says there is even more to come from this Bayern side.
For his part, Rummenigge said they want to extend the perfectionist Spaniard’s contract past 2016.
“I was happy with the first half performance, but we can improve on the second,” said Guardiola after Saturday’s win in Berlin.
“We are still in November and there is still a lot of work to do.”
The rest of the league has been warned. – Agence France-Presse