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Bayern could face long-term challenge from Wolfsburg

27 April 2015, 16:13

Frankfurt — When their 25th Bundesliga title came, Bayern Munich's players and coaches were most likely on their sofas, watching television.

The team's director, Matthias Sammer, was at a basketball game.

There was no celebration of the club's record German championship on Sunday, no car parades through the Bavarian capital, no euphoria on the city's main square. The low-key acknowledgement of the title reflected the suspense-lacking season in which Bayern had opened a massive lead early on and the title was just a matter of time despite a series of injuries to key players.

It came with four matches to spare when third-place Borussia Moenchengladbach beat Wolfsburg 1-0 on a last-minute goal, which meant that second-place Wolfsburg remained 15 points behind and lost the mathematical chance of catching Bayern. Moenchengladbach is 19 points behind but the gap may be narrower than it looks.

That match pitted Bayern's most likely challengers for the future.

Although Bayern's dominance of the Bundesliga is unlikely to end in the short term, Wolfsburg has the money and Moenchengladbach has the talent to become Bayern's long-term rivals.

Also read: Guardiola to return to Barcelona

They are the only two Bundesliga teams to beat Bayern this season and Bayern was badly outplayed in both losses. Wolfsburg thrashed Bayern 4-1 at home and Moenchengladbach won 2-0 in Munich.

Backed by the financial clout of sponsor Volkswagen, Wolfsburg already surprisingly won the Bundesliga title in 2009 and is all but sure to play in the Champions League next season. It has a competent, low-key coach in Dieter Hecking and an experienced director in Klaus Allofs, who has a good record of signing talented players.

Moenchengladbach lacks the financial means of Wolfsburg, but fosters talents into stars and has a clever tactician in coach Lucien Favre, a Swiss who knows how to get the best out his squad despite losing a top player nearly every season to richer clubs. The club was close to relegation when he took over in 2011 but now looks headed for the Champions League, which will boost the budget.

Bayern, on the other hand, will have to rebuild the team in the not too distant future. Philipp Lahm, Xabi Alonso, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben are 30 or older; Bastian Schweinsteiger will be 30 in August. All are Bayern stalwarts.

Bayern coach Pep Guardiola has another season on his contract and has not indicated whether he intends to extend.

Borussia Dortmund, which won the last two championships before Bayern's three consecutive titles, has had a difficult season but could still spoil Bayern's hopes for a repeat of the 2013 treble.

Coach Juergen Klopp is leaving at the end of the season, to be replaced by the little tested Thomas Tuchel, who will likely need time to adjust.

Klopp would like nothing better but to leave on a winning note. Dortmund visits Munich in the German Cup semifinals and if Dortmund can repeat the performance of 2012, when it routed Bayern 5-2 in the final, Klopp could say goodbye with a title.

Guardiola insists that the Bundesliga title is the most important because it reflects the overall season. But ultimately he will be judged on his Champions League record — and he faces his old team Barcelona in the semifinals.

Guardiola led Bayern to a league and cup double in his first season after taking over from Jupp Heynckes, who had steered the side to the treble in 2013.

"It's not enough to be champion here. It's not enough to win the cup here," Guardiola said last week. "Only the treble is enough."

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- AP


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