Why 2013 Will Be the Year of Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistDecember 27, 2012

GUANGZHOU, GUANGDONG - JULY 26:  Mario Mandzukic of Bayern Munich celebrates with team mates after scoring during a friendly match against VfL Wolfsburg as part of the Audi Football Summit 2012 on July 26, 2012 at the Guangdong Olympic Sports Center in Guangzhou, China.  (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
Victor Fraile/Getty Images

Ever since 1996 and until recently, Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga title at least every other year. Once they won three consecutive titles, and in another stint they hoisted the shield in back-to-back years.

But until this spring, they hadn't gone without titles for two consecutive seasons in the better part of two decades. Their current drought will end in a few months' time, and they are now poised for a prolonged spell of domestic dominance.

Halfway through the 2012-13 campaign, the Bavarians are nine points clear of Leverkusen and 12 points ahead of Dortmund and Frankfurt. The rest of the pack is so far behind, even Uli Hoeness' famous binoculars may not be enough to bridge the gap to the leaders.

Critically, all of Bayern's rivals for the title are still alive and well in European play, the exception being a Frankfurt side that is already well into nosebleed territory. Dortmund, who despite being third are still the leaders' most dangerous rivals, also remain in the race for the DFB-Pokal. Thus, the leaders are not at any particular disadvantage in terms of workload.

And while Bayern and Dortmund may be on approximately level terms in terms of overall class, that is not the factor that crowns champions. Real Madrid proved this much last season when they won La Liga ahead of Barcelona despite never getting the better of an elite team in any of their competitions. Whether they were better than the Catalans in a head-to-head was moot: they were more effective at beating the Zaragozas and Granadas of La Liga.

Similarly to the case of Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga, Bayern are better than Dortmund and Leverkusen when it comes to downing teams like Fuerth and Augsburg. Halfway through the season, the title is Bayern's to lose; the only real question is whether they claim it in late May or sooner. And as it stands, they just might clinch the trophy in April.

The gap between Bayern and Dortmund or Leverkusen's respective abilities to beat lesser opponents will not change anytime soon. None of the Bavarians' key players this season are likely to leave or see their quality curbed by advancing age anytime soon.

Bayern are pragmatic and have a model that is sustainable for the long term. They have more depth and cover much less ground than any of Germany's top sides, meaning their players will not tire as easily as those of their rivals.

On the other hand, Dortmund play the most physically exhausting brand of football in Europe, while Leverkusen midfielders Stefan Reinartz and Lars Bender are among the most industrious players in the Bundesliga. It's a method that has cost Dortmund points this season, and will certainly do the same to Leverkusen either this spring, or in the fall assuming they qualify for the Champions League.

Both B04 and BVB have locked themselves into a commitment to promoting their youngsters, and in doing so have somewhat hindered their ability to develop quality in depth: both have to wait for the likes of Moritz Leinter, Marvin Ducksch, Dominik Kohr and Arkadiusz Milik to develop, which could be a matter of months or years.

Schalke are out of the title race in 2012-13, but will likely finish in the top four and can expect to be contenders when the race is reset in August. But like BVB and B04, they have put their faith in youth, hoping for youngsters like Julian Draxler and Kyriakos Papadopoulos to develop into world-class stars, and waiting for the likes of Max Meyer to come of age. Given their debt and inability to afford new superstars, they are unlikely to sign the players necessary to contend with Bayern.

The last time Bayern went two seasons without winning the Bundesliga, they won four titles in the following five seasons. Sometimes they need a spur to inspire them to reach a higher level, and they've gotten just that from Dortmund.

Bayern will win the Bundesliga this May, and especially given that there is no European Championship or World Cup this summer, will in all likelihood lead the league in 12 months. Only they can stop themselves now.


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