By Sedara Philip
Borussia Dortmund will collect their first Bundesliga crown in 11 years if they defeat Mainz at home on Saturday.
Dortmund are two points clear of Bayern Munich at the top as they go into the final game of the season.
Bayern head to Cologne needing a win, coupled with a draw or defeat for Dortmund, to hand them an 11th successive German top-flight title.
“We cannot allow this to be taken from us,” said Dortmund sports director Sebastian Kehl.
Kehl, who captained the 2011-2012 team that won the league under former boss Jurgen Klopp, added: “We just have to win one more time.
“Basically I have a good feeling, but I know that we have to perform really well one more time and then we will deserve it.
“When the players ride the bus to the stadium they will be cheered on by the crowds. That will push them.”
While it has been a rollercoaster of a title race so far, with Dortmund and Bayern trading places at the summit several times, if Edin Terzic’s team can finish off the job it will cap a remarkable triumph.
The team aspect’ is key
While Dortmund were heavily reliant on Erling Haaland’s goals (62 in 67 league games] in recent seasons, they could become champions without a single player reaching double figures this term.
The season started with new signing Sebastien Haller – brought in to replace the Manchester City-bound Haaland – being diagnosed with testicular cancer in July.
The Ivory Coast forward returned to action six months later after surgeries and chemotherapy and has contributed with seven goals in his past nine games for the club, who still produced enterprising and attacking football in his absence.
Former Dortmund midfielder Paul Lambert, who helped them to Champions League glory in 1997, said: “It was a massive blow to him and the club but the way he has come back has been phenomenal.
“Haller in the last few games has been a major player for them, but it is the team aspect. The manager deserves a lot of credit for what they have done
“Dortmund look like they can score at any moment and at any time. There is no fear factor. They have been relentless at home and look unbeatable at home. You can feel the belief is there.”
Dortmund have also had to contend with constant media speculation over the future of England midfielder Jude Bellingham, who is nursing a knee injury and doubtful for Saturday’s title decider.
The 19-year-old has repeatedly been linked with a move and reports suggest Spanish giants Real Madrid are close to finalising a transfer this summer.
Bayern knocked off their perch?
Top at Christmas and leaders at the halfway stage, patchy form in 2023 cost Bayern top spot and head coach Julian Nagelsmann his job in March.
And while new boss Thomas Tuchel made the perfect start to his tenure with a table-topping ‘Klassiker’ win over Dortmund, the club that has monopolised Bundesliga titles has not managed to maintain their usual aura of invincibility.
A German Cup defeat by Freiburg followed and they were comfortably beaten over two legs by Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
However, until last weekend’s shock 3-1 home loss to RB Leipzig they had at least looked on course for some silverware in the form of a 33rd league title.
The biggest irony is Bayern will have lost more games, in all competitions under Tuchel, than the man he replaced.
Behind the top two, Leipzig are already assured of third place, with FC Union Berlin and Freiburg, level on the same points and vying for the final Champions League spot.
Union host mid-table Werder Bremen and know a victory should be enough, given their superior goal difference over Freiburg, who travel to Eintracht Frankfurt.
Bayer Leverkusen will hope to hold off Wolfsburg and Frankfurt to secure Europa League football.
At the bottom, Schalke, Bochum, VfB Stuttgart and Augsburg are embroiled in four-way fight for survival, with Hertha Berlin already relegated