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Bayern aims to clinch title against Dortmund in ‘Klassiker’

DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) – Bayern Munich is used to winning the Bundesliga title. Even so, this one is special.

Not only would it be Bayern’s 10th in a row – a feat never achieved in any of Europe’s top five leagues – but the club can clinch the title at home (Sunday 12.30am Brunei Time) with a win in the Klassiker against Borussia Dortmund.

Bayern’s stadium will be packed for the match, making a difference from twice celebrating titles in empty arenas amid the pandemic. The mood in Munich on Thursday was relaxed, with Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann already discussing his players’ tradition of celebrating league wins.

Still, Nagelsmann admitted that winning the Bundesliga again has “perhaps a little bit less meaning in Munich” than the Champions League, where Bayern was eliminated in the quarterfinals with a surprise loss to Villarreal.

“It’s still a special situation to do it against Dortmund, to do it against your direct competitor in your own stadium with a full house,” he said.

Bayern’s Serge Gnabry (L) challenges for the ball during a German Bundesliga match. PHOTO: AP

Ten titles in a row would be a historic achievement for Bayern but less helpful for the Bundesliga. Stagnation at the top makes it a harder sell to international audiences.

Winning the league is just meeting minimum expectations for Nagelsmann in the first year of a five-year contract. “I think that if I didn’t win it with the team, then I wouldn’t be the coach here any more,” he said.

Dortmund trails Bayern by nine points with four games remaining and would need a big win and a dramatic Bayern collapse to have any hope for the title. Still, they would love to spoil Bayern’s party.

Bayern has won its last seven meetings against Dortmund, though the last encounter was a hard-fought game which ended amid bitter recriminations. Bayern won 3-2 with two goals from Robert Lewandowski but all the focus was on referee Felix Zwayer after Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham used a post-game interview to recall Zwayer’s links to a 2005 match-fixing case. Bellingham later was fined.

It could be the last Klassiker for Dortmund striker Erling Haaland, with the Norwegian linked with a move to Manchester City at the end of the season. He is coming off a period of poor form after missing February with muscle problems – a worrying repeat occurrence for the 21-year-old striker – though he ended a scoring drought with two goals in last week’s 6-1 rout of struggling Wolfsburg.

Outside of the top two, there’s still a fight for the other Champions League places. Leipzig is in third place and Bayer Leverkusen is fourth, and both are under pressure from fifth-
place Freiburg.

Freiburg, which has also reached the German Cup final, takes on Borussia Mönchengladbach in a game which could make or break its Champions League chances.