The rise in prominence of the Bundesliga over the last five years has been significant, with many now gauging it as the top league in Europe.
Two German sides playing out the Champions League final last term was a testament to just how far the top-flight in the country has come, with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund swatting aside the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid en route to Wembley.
This season there appears to be no major shift away from German dominance, with Bayern giving Manchester City an absolute lesson at the Etihad Stadium in the group stages of the Champions League.
Manchester United saved some face for the Premier League by beating Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 at Old Trafford, but this was England’s top-placed side playing Germany’s third at home. The story at the BayArena may well be different.
Even in the transfer market over the summer the trend favouring the Bundesliga was evident. Premier League targets Mario Götze and Julian Draxler opted to stay in their homeland, while Robert Lewandowski looks likely to join Bayern rather than one of the big English clubs. Germany’s big two also beat United and Liverpool to the signings of Thiago Alcântara and Henrikh Mkhitaryan respectively.
With the Bundesliga taking Serie A’s fourth Champions League qualification place and the German sides’ dominance against English and Spanish opponents of late, there is a real case to suggest that it is the strongest division in Europe.
Battle lines will be drawn once more in tonight’s Champions League group stage action, with some of Germany’s best taking on two of England’s top teams. In-form Arsenal play host to last season’s beaten finalists Dortmund at the Emirates Stadium, while Chelsea make the trip to Gelsenkirchen to take on Schalke.
Arsenal and Dortmund met in the 2011-12 campaign, with the north London side getting the better of Jürgen Klopp’s men. The Gunners beat the Signal Iduna Park outfit 2-1 at home, and only a late Ivan Perišić effort salvaged a 1-1 draw for Dortmund in Germany.
However, with Dortmund’s noticeable improvement, the back-to-back fixtures against Arsenal this time around could go either way. In tonight’s clash in England, the hosts will go in as favourites due to their early season form, but will face a tough test against a Dortmund side that has won 10 out of their 13 competitive fixtures this season.
In the other clash, Chelsea need positive results in the next two games to ease their passage through to the business end of the competition. After losing unexpectedly at home to FC Basel, José Mourinho’s men trail Schalke by three points in the pool, with the German side winning both of their opening fixtures.
On paper, Chelsea’s squad has the individual talent and international superstars to win both games against Schalke. In reality, the collective team spirit and pressure that the Gelsenkirchen side will put on the Blues, especially tonight in Germany, will make it anything but easy for the west London outfit.
With four English sides partnered with four German teams in the pools, it will be interesting to see the overall results once both home and away legs have been played. The way the groups are panning out, there is every chance that all eight teams from the two countries could make it through to the latter stages of the tournament and resume their rivalries when it really counts in the knockout stages.