By Enis Koylu
In the build-up to Saturday’s Revierderby clash against Borussia Dortmund, Schalke general manager Horst Heldt commented that the current champions could afford to lose the match, and still have a shot at winning the title.
Quite frankly, though, after the Konigsblauen claimed a 2-1 victory against Jurgen Klopp's side at Signal Iduna Park, there is no way back.
Around 65 kilometres away, Bayern were strolling to a 5-0 win over Fortuna Dusseldorf, opening up a huge 12-point gap between themselves and Dortmund, and although BVB fans will point out that their side managed to recover from a hefty deficit last term, it seems unlikely that they will be able to do so once more.
And they have nobody to blame other than themselves. Losing to Schalke is no embarrassment, but limp performances at Nurnberg and Hannover, followed by defensive horror shows against a beleaguered Hamburg and the newly-promoted Eintracht Frankfurt, have left them in their current predicament.
|MATCH FACTS | Dortmund 1-2 Schalke
They had struggles with injuries last season, of course, but by the time Gotze's campaign was curtailed by a hip injury they were already in full flow, and Kuba took his opportunity to stake his claim for a first-team place with a string of fine performances. One struggles to see Ivan Perisic or Leonardo Bittencourt, who both featured against Schalke, doing the same in the coming months.
What's more, Dortmund's resurgence in the second half of the last campaign coincided with their Champions League exit. This time out, with BVB having claimed four points from their first two games, they look more likely to be involved on the continental front after the winter hiatus.
Their squad have proven themselves to be exceptionally fit with their tireless displays over the years, but the combination of long-haul trips to some of Europe's finest teams, as well as an uphill struggle on the domestic front, will be entirely alien to them.
Meanwhile, at the Allianz Arena, Bayern are a different beast to the one they were in 2011-12. Hurt by their failure on three fronts last term, the Bavarians look to be eager to make amends now, and it is hard to see them let this one slip.
Jupp Heynckes' troops recorded a tally of 75 points in the Bundesliga in 2011-12, enough to win them the title most years. With the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Javi Martinez, Dante and Mario Mandzukic adding considerable quality to the Roten ranks, a repeat of their spectacular loss of form that saw them lose points to the likes of Hamburg and Freiburg looks to be out of the question.
Bayern have no excuses now. Dortmund's calamitous start to the season has all but given their rivals the Bundesliga title. Another Bavarian collapse would be beyond unforgivable.
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