FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Bayern Munich can become the earliest Bundesliga champion with a win at Hertha Berlin on Tuesday.
Last season, Bayern won the championship with six games to spare, this time it could be seven.
In a showdown likely to decide second place, Borussia Dortmund hosts Schalke in the Ruhr derby.
Here are five things to know ahead Tuesday and Wednesday’s matches:
Bayern is riding high after a league-record 18th consecutive win and its unbeaten run now stands at 51 games — also a record.
Bayern is 23 points ahead of Borussia Dortmund. The team finished the previous season 25 points ahead of Dortmund and this campaign could be even more dominant. In 26 games this season, Bayern has 24 wins and two draws.
Michael Preetz, Hertha Berlin’s managing director, thinks Bayern will remain unchallenged for a while.
“At the moment, I don’t see a single team that will be capable of closing the gap to Bayern over the next few years,” Preetz said. “They’ve done a great job over the last four decades and deserve this status.”
Bayern’s previous seven titles have all come at matches away from home. The only difference is that two of those came on the final day of the season, and one on the penultimate.
The earliest was with four matches to spare — until last season’s record-breaking campaign.
EVEN A LOSS COULD BE ENOUGH
There are several scenarios that will give Bayern its 24th Bundesliga title.
The most straightforward way is for Bayern to beat Hertha. A draw will be enough if Dortmund fails to beat Schalke. And even if Bayern loses its first match of the season, it will win the title if Dortmund and Schalke settle for a draw.
Bayern’s entire squad is flying to Berlin so that all the players can celebrate the championship.
“When we win the title, we have to celebrate,” Bayern coach Pep Guardiola said.
GUARDIOLA’S FIRST IN GERMANY
Guardiola will win the championship in his first season at Bayern and could repeat his predecessor Jupp Heynckes’ feat of sweeping the Champions League and the German Cup as well.
“The championship is the most important title. When you are champion, you’ve had a good season in any case,” he said.
Guardiola said he wanted the title as early as possible so that the players can then “fully concentrate on the Champions League quarterfinal against Manchester United.”
THE RUHR DERBY
Dortmund vs. Schalke is usually one of the highlights of the Bundesliga season, a grudge match between two neighboring clubs with little love lost between them and whose supporters often clash.
In the standings, Dortmund has a one-point lead and wants to consolidate its second place.
Police will have 3,000 officers on the scene, with another 1,000 security staff provided by Dortmund.
Schalke has won seven of its last nine in the Bundesliga and is striving to reach second place for the first time this season.