Title contenders battle as champions Bayern get off to a perfect start

BERLIN: A decade of Bayern Munich’s total dominance in the Bundesliga has put pressure on other sides to step up and break Bayern’s stranglehold, but their rivals have encountered obstacles early this season.

While Bayern are the new record favorites for their 11th consecutive title after three wins in their first three games and 15 goals in the league, last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, who finished third, and RB Leipzig already have trouble keeping up.

Bayern’s stunning form was demonstrated again on Sunday as they defeated hosts VfL Bochum 7-0 with two goals for new signing Sadio Mane. Overall, Bayern have scored 20 goals in four games in all competitions, and that’s without their all-time top scorer Robert Lewandowski, who joined Barcelona this season.

“We were completely taken apart by them. It was wild. It’s brutally bitter and I’ve never been so destroyed,” said Bochum’s Simon Zoller.

Struggling against such a side over a whole season takes consistency, but Dortmund have already slipped spectacularly in a 3-2 defeat by Werder Bremen last week after conceding three goals in the closing minutes.

Dortmund, three points behind Bayern, is struggling in attack after Erling Haaland left Manchester City.

His first successor, Sebastien Haller, has been diagnosed with testicular cancer and is out indefinitely.

Cologne substitute Anthony Modeste is yet to repeat his form from last season and appears to have a long way to go before he fully integrates into Dortmund’s style of play.

Coach Edin Terzic also faces a growing injury list which currently includes Mats Hummels, Karim Adeyemi, Mo Dahoud and Donyell Malen.

German Cup winners Leipzig, fourth last season, have been similarly lackluster despite the signing of striker Timo Werner.

With two draws and one defeat, they are already seven behind leaders Bayern with two points.

However, Leverkusen have fared worse after losing all three league games and being eliminated from the first round of the DFB-Pokal by third-tier side Elversberg for their worst start to the season ever.

“We were still being celebrated a few weeks ago, so we have to assert ourselves now,” said former long-time Leverkusen sports director Rudi Völler, who resigned at the beginning of the year. “The team can play wonderful football, but the players have to clear their minds and then things will get better.”