By Enis Koylu | German Football Writer
A little over 12 months ago, it seemed to be all over. Borussia Dortmund had fallen to a 2-1 defeat away at Hannover, the champions' third defeat in just six Bundesliga games. Bayern Munich, meanwhile had beaten Schalke 2-0 at the Veltins Arena. Jurgen Klopp's side's title victory the year before was a one-off, and the Bavarians were the true kings of Germany.
Fast forward to May, and it was a different story. Bayern's eight-point lead in the Bundesliga had been turned on its head by a remarkable Dortmund revival, and the Ruhr side went on to thrash their rivals 5-2 in the DFB-Pokal final. Die Roten's last chance of salvation was the Champions League final, when they struggled to break down a distinctly limited Chelsea team on their own turf, and lost on penalties.
The start to the current season has been even more impressive for Bayern. Indeed, it has been perfect. While they cannot boast a 1,147-minute run without conceding a goal, they have swept aside all nine of their opponents with considerable ease, including the likes of Dortmund, Schalke, Werder Bremen and Valencia.
Bayern's sensational start
||Bayern 2-1 Dortmund
||Regensburg 0-4 Bayern|
|Aug 25||Furth 0-3 Bayern|
||Bayern 6-1 Stuttgart
||Bayern 3-1 Mainz
||Bayern 2-1 Valencia|
||Schalke 0-2 Bayern
|Sep 25||Bayern 3-0 Wolfsburg|
|Sep 29||Bremen 0-2 Bayern|
However, Bayern look unlikely to repeat their 2011-12 collapse in 2012-13.
Jupp Heynckes' men went into the winter break top of the pile last season, but with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben, amongst others, injured, a stretched Bayern limped to draws with Freiburg and Hamburg and suffered a 1-0 loss to Basel in the Champions League round of 16 in a disastrous February.
This term, an injury to the Germany midfielder would be no catastrophe: €40 million-man Javi Martinez and first-team regular Luiz Gustavo could man the deep-lying midfield positions. If the Dutchman were to suffer another injury, Xherdan Shaqiri would be a more-than-able deputy.
Last time out, a Mario Gomez undergoing ankle surgery would have meant that an ageing Ivica Olic led the line. This season, Mario Mandzukic has been in rampant form up front as he begins his Bayern career, while Claudio Pizarro provides them with the credible third-choice striker that Nils Petersen never was.
Holger Badstuber's suspension necessitated the fielding of Anatoliy Tymoshchuk as a makeshift defender in the Champions League final in May. Should the 23-year-old fall again, Dante will be on hand to step in.
Toni Kroos is a year older, and finally seems to be finding his best form on a consistent basis, while Emre Can, now 18, is ready to fill in when needed and has already showcased his versatility by acting as an emergency left-back.
Of course, Bayern were by no means poor last season. The 73 points they managed in 2011-12 would have been enough to win the Bundesliga in four of the previous five editions of the competition, and they memorably outplayed Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid in both semi-final legs of the Champions League.
Whether domestic rivals Dortmund can string together another long unbeaten run remains to be seen: they have already displayed defensive frailties in the Bundesliga this season, and a top-three finish in a tough Champions League group containing Madrid and Manchester City would see their thin squad extended to their full capabilities.
On a European level, the turmoil at the Bernabeu has been well documented, while Manchester United and Manchester City have serious question marks over their midfield and defence respectively. Chelsea, additionally, will have the Club World Cup to contend with alongside their hectic Christmas schedule in December.
Juventus and Barcelona have both enjoyed unbeaten starts to the league, but the Turin side are still without a credible striker, and have survived scares against Fiorentina and Genoa, while Tito Vilanova's Blaugrana are not the fearsome machine they were under Pep Guardiola, escaping shocks against Getafe, Spartak Moscow and Sevilla thanks to individual brilliance - mainly from Lionel Messi.
If the early signs are to be believed this season, Bayern are not just the most complete team in Germany, but in Europe, and they have a golden opportunity to banish the memories of two seasons without major honours and finally get their hands on the trophies that the quality of their squad merits.
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