The 2014-15 Bundesliga schedule was announced on Tuesday, and by the looks of it, Bayern Munich are primed to defend their league title for a third consecutive season.
Over the last two seasons, the Bavarians have enjoyed a commanding lead by mid-season, holding a 10-point advantage over Leverkusen in 2013-14 and a nine-point lead atop the table the year before. Based on their schedule heading into next season, they should be well-positioned to wrap up the title early yet again.
Bayern's first match will be against Wolfsburg, an anomaly as a rather difficult fixture, but one that will be played at home. They then face a tougher test as they visit Gelsenkirchen to take on Schalke at the Veltins Arena.
After the tough initial hurdle, though, Bayern's next four fixtures are against Stuttgart, Hamburg, Paderborn and Koln, sides that most recently finished in the two spots above those relegated and that were promoted from the 2. Bundesliga.
Based on recent performance, there could be no easier run through Matchdays 3-6, which will be comforting to the Bayern faithful.
A big team is always at its most vulnerable in the early stages of the season, before its players have had time to build form. This goes especially for Bayern in 2014-15, given that 14 of their players (as of now, possible transfers notwithstanding) will have abbreviated vacations and may miss some of the pre-season due to the World Cup.
The good news for Bayern is that they will have a generally easy run early in the campaign. Dortmund, by contrast, have four of their first six matches against teams from the top half of the 2013-14 table, including two away to teams that will be competing internationally. Schalke have it worse still, with tough fixtures against Bayern, Dortmund and Gladbach (away) in their first six games of the campaign.
Bayern should be especially well-positioned for the fixtures against the Bundesliga's top teams. Although they will have to visit Schalke, their first-round matches against Dortmund, Leverkusen and Wolfsburg (the rest of the top five from 2013-14) will be played at the Allianz Arena. Statistically, Bayern were given a very good deal.
The real challenge for Bayern will come in the second half of the season, when they face four of the five best teams (at least from 2013-14) away from home. But if history is an indicator, by that time, the league could well be wrapped up.
The Bundesliga title race was close for much of the fall campaign last season before a fatigued and injury-ravaged Dortmund side ran out of steam and fell 14 points behind Bayern in mid-season, leaving the title race a mere formality. The Bavarians could effectively walk to the title and focus on performing in the Champions League.
If Bayern are pushed harder in the 2014-15 season, they could be faced with a very difficult schedule of must-win games—not only in the Champions League but on the domestic front as well. But as it stands, destiny is firmly in their control, and they should be able to take a considerable lead into the mid-season break. A third straight title is most certainly in the offing.