With only a point separating Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund heading into the last four games of the season, we look at the predicted outcome of the Bundesliga.
It’s not often we get to say this: the Bundesliga is arguably shaping up to have the most interesting title race among Europe’s top five leagues this season.
Of course, the caveat is Bayern Munich are among the two leading the race and, given winning Bundesliga titles is what they do, it’s easy to look at the table and feel like it’s already done and dusted; inevitable.
But with Bayern only a point clear at the top heading into the final four games – which last occurred in 2018-19 – and rather erratic, it’s impossible to rule Edin Terzic’s Borussia Dortmund out of the running.
So, who has the tougher run-in? And which way does the Opta supercomputer think the pendulum will swing?
Bayern or Dortmund for the Title?
It won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that our prediction model considers Bayern the favourites to ultimately win the title. Some might be taken aback by the fact a one-point lead converts to a 74% chance in favour of Die Roten, but the predictor is sophisticated and reflects Bayern’s dominance over the past few years.
For the players, and club in general, that dominance manifests itself as knowhow or “experience”. They’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt, worn the hat. Let’s not forget, Bayern are going for an 11th successive title success here.
But it’s possible to even dig a little deeper beyond the prediction model. Using the average Opta Power Ranking of Bayern and Dortmund’s remaining opponents, we can measure the fixture difficulty of the respective teams’ run-ins.
Again, things look a little rosier for Thomas Tuchel than Terzic.
The average Opta Power Ranking of Dortmund’s next four opponents (Wolfsburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Augsburg and Mainz) is 65.2, whereas Bayern’s is 76.2. Essentially, the model considers only six teams to have a more difficult conclusion than BVB, while the reigning 10-time champions’ last few games are a little on the easier side (Werder Bremen, Schalke, RB Leipzig and Köln).
Of course, who’s to say there won’t be some shocks along the way? Bayern have dropped points in two of their past three Bundesliga matches, and Leipzig on the penultimate matchday of the season could represent a threat – though they’ve never won at the Allianz Arena.
Where Dortmund might look for encouragement, however, is their own home form. They’ve only failed to win two games at Signal Iduna Park all season in the Bundesliga, emerging victorious from each of their past nine, which is a club record over a single campaign.
Three of their four final games of the campaign are in front of the Yellow Wall, whereas Bayern have a 50-50 split between being on their travels and playing host. And, while the Bavarians have claimed a league-high 27 points on the road this term, three of their seven such matches in 2023 have ended in defeat. That’s already as many as in the whole of 2022.
Similarly, this season Bayern simply haven’t been the ruthless operators we generally think of them being. Only Augsburg (23) and Werder Bremen (19) have dropped more points from winning positions than the champions’ 16 – their worst record over a full season this century was 18 in 2000-01.
In fairness, neither team has been particularly convincing in terms of taking charge of the narrative. The team in first place has only won once over the past six matchdays (Bayern away to Freiburg on 8 April).
But the omens are in Bayern’s favour. Their win over Hertha Berlin last weekend saw them regain the lead after Dortmund slipped up at Bochum, and since the 2007-08 season, the team leading after matchday 30 has always gone on to become champions.
In fact, only once in 28 seasons when Bayern have been top at this stage of a campaign have they been usurped, with that occurring way back in 1992-93 when Werder pipped them.
Dortmund certainly aren’t out of this yet, but history isn’t in their favour.
Battle for Champions League
Of course, it’s not just at the very summit where there’s much still at stake in the Bundesliga. Union Berlin, who have played in Germany’s fourth tier as recently as this century, are aiming to qualify for the Champions League for the first time, capping off a remarkable rise and even more incredible 2022-23 season.
Freiburg are also in the hunt for what would be a similarly historic achievement, having never played in Europe’s top-tier competition.
It’s tight between third and fifth, with only two points separating Union and Leipzig, but the predictor model clearly sees the former as favourites to secure a top-four finish with a probability of 84.2%.
Union’s outlook is helped hugely by the fact our run-in difficulty calculator gives them the second-easiest end to the season in terms of the average Opta Power Ranking of their opponents (89).
However, this three-way tussle is made even more intriguing by the fact Freiburg still have to play both Union and Leipzig. They face the latter at home this weekend when revenge will be on the cards after losing 5-1 to the Red Bulls at the Europa Park Stadion in the DFB-Pokal semi-finals on Tuesday.
With that in mind, Freiburg’s run-in is deemed the third-hardest, with the average Opta Power Ranking of their remaining opponents 28.8.
So, while Freiburg may be in pole position for fourth, you get the sense there could be some major twists and turns over the coming weeks.
It’s looking pretty bleak down there for Hertha, who appear destined to suffer relegation for the third time in 12 years. Their run-in is considered on the easier side, with the average Opta Power Ranking of their opponents at 80, but the supercomputer gives them a 93.8% likelihood of automatic relegation.
After all, Hertha are six points adrift of 16th, and since the introduction of three points for a win, no team has ever made up such a deficit this late in the season.
Otherwise, it’s tense towards the bottom. There are only four points between 13th-placed Augsburg and Schalke in 17th, but of the five teams in that group – which also includes Bochum, Stuttgart and Hoffenheim – it’s Bochum with the easiest run-in (opponents’ average Opta Power Ranking: 92.8), with no team in the Bundesliga given a kinder last four games, according to the model.
Hertha appear doomed, but there’s everything still to play for among the rest of those struggling.
How Does the Supercomputer Model Work?
- Opta’s League Prediction model estimates the likelihood of teams finishing in each position in the competition. We can therefore see how successful a team’s season is likely to be, whether it’s their relegation or title chances.
- The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) by using betting market odds and Opta’s team rankings. The odds and rankings are based on historical and recent team performances.
- The model considers the strength of opponents by using these match outcome probabilities and simulates the remaining fixtures in the competition thousands of times. By analysing the outcome of each of these simulations, the model can see how often teams finished in each league position to create our final predictions.