With six matches left in Bundesliga season, Bayern Munich have already secured the league’s title, the earliest a champion has even been crowned in Germany’s top division. Their 1-0 win Saturday at Eintracht Frankfurt kept FCB 20 points clear of second place Borussia Dortmund, clinching the club’s record 23rd top-flight honor.
Bayern’s dominance of their domestic season has been so complete, Saturday’s win is a relative disappointment. Especially after last week’s nine-goal performance against Hamburg, expectations are raised. If they’re now routing their competition, Bayern’s having an off day.
On Saturday, they didn’t break through until the 53rd minute when Bastian Schweinsteiger converted from the spot. They’d had an earlier penalty chance (missed by David Alaba) and held 62 percent possession, but with only five shots on target during a one-goal win, this is a relative cruise. Bayern didn’t have to be Bayern to clinch their title.
Head coach Jupp Heynckes did make a few changes. Coming off a mid-week win over Juventus and preparing for their trip to Turin, Bayern had to be judicious when picking their team. Mario Gomez started up top, with Xherdan Shaqiri also getting the call in attack. Jerome Boateng came into the defense. Arjen Robben and Javi Martinez were introduced into today’s XI, though they’re also expected to start Wednesday in Italy.
Despite the changes, Bayern still kept a clean sheet, their 19th in 28 Bundesliga matches. For the season, they’ve only allowed 13 goals while posting a +65 goal difference. Only one team’s beat them all season, with just three others able to claim draws.
In a season of disappointingly uncompetitive leagues around Europe, Bayern has made Germany the least competitive. As a result, with six weeks left in the Bundesliga season, the title race is over.
Milivojevic free kick, Sako deflection lead Palace past WBA
Goals from Bakary Sako and Luka Milivojevic spearheaded Crystal Palace’s 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the PL Asia Trophy third place game, and now Liverpool and Leicester City tangle for the title.
The final will be staged at 8:30 a.m. ET, when Liverpool will hope to build on a 2-0 semifinal win paced by Divock Origi and Dominic Solanke goals.
The club, the city, the fans, name it: The relentless 27-year-old has renewed his commitment to AS Roma with a new contract, and understands how players like Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi devote their entire careers to i Lupi.
“It’s Rome,” Strootman exclaims, speaking ahead of the club’s second Stateside match of the International Champions Cup.
“You’re not going to leave easy. This is Rome. We all have the ambition to win something here, and to celebrate with the fans. Totti told us when he won the scudetto in 2001, there were parties for three months. If you win something here, it’s going to be really special. About the city you don’t even have to talk, it’s so beautiful you cannot compare it with anything else.”
Yeah, the Eternal City is pretty nice, but it’s most celebrated football club is growing in magnitude, too. Roma’s finished second in Serie A three of the past four seasons, and last season came within four points of its first scudetto since the aforementioned win earlier this century.
Strootman was a massive part of the campaign, returning to the elite form displayed in his first season at the club and in previous campaigns with PSV Eindhoven. He scored six times with seven assists between Serie A and the UEFA Europa League, averaging 2.7 tackles per game, 1.7 interceptions, and 1.4 dribbles per Serie A contest.
That his reclamation of that status came after knee surgeries limited him to 18 matches over the previous two seasons was sweet (if nervy).
“For me it was like such a relief, especially in the beginning you’d play a game and you’d be happy to play,” Strootman said. “If you won everyone was happy with the win, but I was just happy that I didn’t get injured again. The fitness coaches and technical staff did a great job. I played 50 games, we made the Champions League, and I signed a new contract. I was happy to pay them back on the pitch. I feel good.”
Payback is a theme in our talk with Strootman, who speaks glowingly of club chairman James Pallotta, the American businessman who stood by the midfielder during his injury struggles (NOTE: PST profiled Pallotta in depth last summer).
“He brought me here when he started the project, and he’s always supported me even during my injuries,” Strootman said. “He would call me, and was always there for me. I always told him, when I’m fit I want to pay you back with my play on the pitch. He’s like a president should be.”
It’ll be different from Strootman this season, and not just because of the changes to the Roma roster. Gone are Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger, Leandro Paredes, and retiring Francesco Totti. Arriving are Maxime Gonalons, Hector Moreno, and reports of bids for Riyad Mahrez and the impending arrival of Aleksandar Kolarov excite the fan base.
I Lupi are a club which has been on the precipice of greatness for some time. Now with the Champions League group stage and battles with not just Juve and Napoli but surging AC Milan and Inter Milan, Strootman says it’s time to stop talking big and start acting it out.
“The last couple years we talked in the preseason about winning the scudetto, winning cups, but we have to show it on the pitch,” he said. “We still need some time, that’s normal, but we need to show on the pitch that we are hungry. We’re a young team with some experienced players. It’s a good mix. We have to show it from the first competition and game by game.”
Strootman also admitted, as many have, that American soccer continues to grow in renown around the Netherlands and Europe in general.
“I think it’s rising,” he said. “A lot more players from Holland are going over to MLS. I don’t see a lot of the games because they don’t show them in Italy. But when you’re here and see the friendly games against the big teams, the level is going up. MLS is getting higher and higher.”
Roma faces Spurs at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday before a July 30 battle with Juventus at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.