Last season, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund were represented in the UEFA Champions League final — the first all-German final in history. In this year’s competition, the chances of it happening again are mathematically higher with four German squads advancing to the round of 16 for the first time ever.
Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are back as group leaders from the group stage and are joined by Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke 04 who advanced as runners-up of their respective groups. An all-German showdown in May might not happen again, however. While Bayern are considered by many to be the favorite to win it all, the remaining three don’t appear ready to meet them there.
Borussia Dortmund needed a saving goal from Kevin Grosskreutz with three minutes to time against Marseille to find themselves in the knockout stage; a draw would have allowed Napoli to advance as runners-up and given Arsenal the top spot. Bayer Leverkusen advanced on the final day of competition in which they entered in third place and on path to the Europa League. Thanks to a Shakhtar Donetsk loss to Manchester United, they saw their way in. And Schalke 04 beat Swiss champs FC Basel despite losing twice this stage to Chelsea, both by the score of three goals to nil.
So a repeat of last year’s all-German final might be a little too optimistic for the Germans, what with four teams coming out of England (Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal) and three from La Liga (Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid). However, with the quartet of German clubs advancing this far comes a subtly more important talking point: the fact that the Bundesliga is becoming a truly powerful league in Europe, and one that is no longer dominated solely by Bayern Munich.
Despite Bayern Munich’s undefeated record through 15 matches in league play this season, there are at least three teams within striking distance of catching them: Bayer Leverkusen are just four points behind while Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach are ten points behind. Schalke 04, who are in 6th place and 17 points behind Munich are the perfect example with their success in the Champions League of just how strong and well rounded the league has become. With the January transfer window approaching before the resumption of play, it is conceivable that the four teams not named Bayern Munich now have the appeal of attracting big-name players to help their Bundesliga and Champions League fortunes.
With the World Cup around the corner, the best soccer country in the world will soon stake its claim. Germany is one of the favorites to win it all in Brazil. Yes, Germany has three World Cup titles spanning back to the 50’s — two more than both England and Spain — so it’s not that top-flight German soccer is finally just happening. But Germany has long coveted a domestic league that has the type of global appeal the English Premier League and La Liga have. They’re well on their way to fulfilling that wish.