It seems only yesterday that Borussia Dortmund won back-to-back league titles, and were well on their way to being one of the greatest teams in Europe, with their odyssey to the Champions League final in 2013 standing as the pinnacle of their continental achievements this century.
However, with Mario Gotze and Mats Hummels notably joining a revived red revolution in Bavaria, Dortmund would never be quite the same again after that. Then, Jurgen Klopp’s departure all but sealed the club’s fate as Bayern Munich’s long-term bridesmaids.
Gotze and Hummels have since returned to the club, but there is still much work to be done, with seven seasons passing since Dortmund last won the league title. Bayern Munch have won every single one, and with Dortmund coming second in four of those seasons, the sense of frustration behind the Westfalenstadion’s famous Yellow Wall grows by the year.
Last year showed some signs of change, with Bayern winning the league by just two points. However, Dortmund fans will remember only the promising winter break lead, which was slowly chipped away by a team that always, in a strange way, seemed destined to win it.
The Partnership that Wins the Bundesliga?
If Dortmund are to end Bayern’s streak in 2020, the seasoned Alex Witsel and the fresh, young Jadon Sancho will be a huge part of that. The two players are at different stages of their career but share the same ambitions, and have already captured the imagination of the Schwargelben’s ever-loyal fans.
It is often said that a mixture of youth and experience is great for a team. In his defensive midfield position, Witsel is able to ensure the creative players in the side have the freedom to be able to perform. Sancho, meanwhile, played in every league game last term, and was a huge part of Dortmund’s attacking play.
His stats at key intervals in 2018/19 showed his potential for legendary status at the Westfalenstadion, and by the end of April, he had established himself as a quick starter in home games, which could not fail to make him a fan favourite. Indeed, by that point, eight of Sancho’s 11 Bundesliga goals had come at home, with six of those eight coming in the first half.
Sancho’s final tally of 12 goals in 35 games is impressive for a teenage winger, and the flair that he can provide had been lacking at Westfalenstadion before his arrival.
However, with that previous shortage of flair being exacerbated by the persistent injuries to Marco Reus, alongside the sale of Christian Pulisic, the demands on Sancho are likely to be even greater in 2019/20.
Are Bayern there for the Taking?
While the current Bayern Munich squad is undeniably excellent, it is not the formidable force it once was. Die Roten miss Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery badly, and there is no guarantee that the club will adapt well to transition, having become so accustomed to success.
Ultimately, the Dortmund men acquired specifically to capitalise on Bayern’s own ‘transitional’ period also seem astutely chosen. Alongside Witsel and Sancho, Julian Brandt is an excellent addition to Dortmund, and he too – along with Witsel and Hummels – will use his existing Bundesliga pedigree to ease the newfound level of pressure Sancho will feel in the coming months.
That said, Brandt and Sancho can only have such creative freedom if Witsel is fit and consistent throughout this season. Another close title race is on the cards, and even the two league meetings alone could swing it.
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