BUNDESLIGA

Impressive Dortmund's 'autumn title' bodes well for Favre's men

Impressive Dortmund's 'autumn title' bodes well for Favre's men

VALERY HACHE

AFP

Borussia Dortmund will top the Bundesliga at the season half-way mark and have won the title on each of the previous three occasions they led after the first half of a season.

Borussia Dortmund have every reason to be confident of winning the Bundesliga title because they did so on the previous three occasions when they led at the halfway mark.

Dortmund still face games against lowly Fortuna Dusseldorf Tuesday and second-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach Friday before the first half is completed but their nine-point lead already assures them of the so-called "autumn champion" honour.

Dortmund also led at the stage in 1994-95, 1995-96 and 2010-11, and went on to lift the trophy each time. Their other titles 2002 and 2012 came from second at the halfway mark.

But everyone at the club is firmly keeping their feet on the ground, despite impressive showings in an unbeaten league run from a reshaped and young team under new coach Lucien Favre.

Dortmund's head coach Lucien Favre

"We still have two important games left before the winter break and want to keep up the consistency we have shown so far until the end of the first half of the season," goalkeeper Roman Buerki said after Saturday's 2-1 over Werder Bremen.

"We have superb players, a superb team – everything is just right at the moment. We need to continue like this. We're enjoying the moment, but we also know that it can turn quickly. We need to do everything in our power to stay at the top."

Dortmund's high-powered attach with the likes of league top scorer Paco Alcacer, experienced Marco Reus and English teenage sensation Jaden Sancho has contributed heavily to a leading 41-goal haul.

Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho in action with Werder Bremen's Ludwig Augustinsson

Belgium's Axel Witsel has stabilised midfield, and the defence is the second best in the Bundesliga with 15 goals let in, with youngsters such as Manuel Akanji, Abdou Diallo and Achraf Hakimi.

Favre has plenty of depth to chose from to keep the players fresh in a season which is in stark contrast to the last one where they collapsed after a good start and limped home in fourth.

Dortmund will hope to take their nine-point lead into the four-week winter break from December 20 onwards as every point could be important in a duel with champions Bayern Munich who seem to have recovered from some hiccups.

Bayern revival?

Munich played what their new coach Niko Kovac named "one of our best displays this season" in a 4-0 demolition of bottom club Hanover Saturday.

Soccer Football - Bundesliga - Hannover 96 v Bayern Munich - HDI-Arena, Hanover, Germany - December 15, 2018 Bayern Munich's Serge Gnabry (hidden) celebrates scoring their third goal with Thomas Mueller and team mates

Kovac has ended his rotation policy after several dropped points and is slowly starting a reshaping process in an ageing team as the Bild paper said on its website: "That's the Bayern of the future."

Veteran wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery did not play Saturday while Joshua Kimmich and Serge Gnabry impressed along with Kingsley Coman and Leon Goretzka.

"I'm increasingly aware we're slowly but surely turning the tide. We played well in the last few matches. That's the ambition we have, and we must live up to it again and again," Kovac said.

The six-time reigning champions will not be giving up their title dream, and others may soon be feeling just as Hanover's Pirmin Schwegler did.

"They had a fully fuelled Lamborghini, whereas we ran out of gas," Schwegler said.