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Borussia Dortmund are level on points with Bayern Munich at the top of the table
RB Leipzig are also in the Bundesliga title race despite being four points back
Home advantage could swing Friday’s encounter in the favor of Borussia Dortmund
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These are two excellent teams but BVB are in such good form that they could edge out their opponents in this weekend’s crunch clash in the Bundesliga.
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In recent seasons, Borussia Dortmund have struggled to match Bayern Munich for consistency. Both teams have long been capable of producing stunning performances in Germany, but Dortmund were also prone to more unexpected defeats than their rivals, who have won the Bundesliga title in each of the last 10 seasons.
This time around, things could be different. There is still a long way to go, with 33 points up for grabs even after this weekend. But as things stand on the brink of gameweek 23, Bayern and Dortmund are neck and neck at the summit of the standings.
Bayern have endured an inconsistent start to 2023. Since World Cup 2022 and the winter break, they have won only three of their seven Bundesliga games, opening the door not only to Dortmund but also to the likes of Union Berlin, RB Leipzig and Freiburg, all of whom are separated by only five points.
Dortmund deserve great credit for how they have played post-Qatar. They went into the mid-season hiatus in a disappointing mood after back-to-back losses to Wolfsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach in their final two matches.
But there was no sense of a hangover when the domestic campaign resumed. Dortmund have been perfect since then (at least in terms of results), winning nine games on the bounce across the Bundesliga, the Champions League, and the DFB-Pokal.
Can they do it? The best online sportsbooks still heavily fancy Bayern. That is understandable. Not only do they have the trophy-winning experience that this Dortmund side lacks, but the underlying numbers also reveal that they have been Germany’s best-performing team.
Even so, Dortmund would go top with a victory over RB Leipzig on Friday. Edin Terzic’s side are very much part of the title conversation.
Ordinarily, a team in fourth place in the Bundesliga at this stage of the season would be focused solely on Champions League qualification. But the table is so congested this term that RB Leipzig are not ready to give up their title hopes just yet.
Marco Rose’s men would move to within a point of the top spot if they emerge triumphant at Signal Iduna Park on Friday. Had the season started when Rose was hired to replace Domenico Tedesco in September, Leipzig would be doing even better: no team in the division has amassed as many points as them in that time.
Leipzig had a little wobble earlier in February, drawing 0-0 with Koln and then suffering a 2-1 home defeat by Union Berlin.
But they have bounced back well from those twin disappointments, running out 3-0 winners over Wolfsburg before beating Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1. Those were two impressive victories given that their opponents are in the hunt for Europa League qualification.
In between them, Leipzig held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw in the Champions League. They were outplayed in the first half but mounted an excellent comeback after the break, against a team that are the favorites to win the tournament.
Leipzig, like Dortmund, would not necessarily have expected to be so close to Bayern Munich with 12 rounds of fixtures remaining. But Rose’s side must do all they can to keep up with the Bavarians in case they continue to stutter. A triumph at Signal Iduna Park on Friday would only strengthen their title credentials.
Although there are four teams reasonably close to Bayern at the top of the table, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig are the likeliest candidates to be able to sustain a title challenge.
Union Berlin have done extraordinarily well to kick on from last season when they already punched above their weight by finishing fifth. But they may struggle to keep pace with Bayern for the remainder of the campaign, especially after being outplayed by them in a 3-0 defeat last time out.
Freiburg, who are currently five points shy of the summit, would also do well to stay within touching distance. They have lost matches 6-0 and 5-1 already in 2023, and the resumption of their Europa League campaign next week could prove to be a distraction.
Perhaps the winner of Friday’s game, then, will emerge as Bayern’s closest challenger for the rest of the season. Given they have home advantage on their side and are playing such fantastic soccer at the moment, we fancy Borussia Dortmund to get the better of RB Leipzig.
Rose’s team won the reverse fixtures and the former BVB boss would love to do the double over his old employers, but Dortmund could ultimately have too much quality for Leipzig in this one.
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Teams: Borussia Dortmund vs RB Leipzig
Location: Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, Germany
Time: Mar. 3, 2023, 2.30 p.m. EST
How to Watch: ESPN+
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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