By Oliver Trust
BERLIN, May 22 (Xinhua) -- The race for the 2020 Bundesliga title has been given an injection of excitement.
Fans and pundits might have expected weeks of silence and boredom caused by games behind closed doors. On the contrary, the end of the 2019/2020 Bundesliga season is about to turn into a nail-biter.
After significant improvements to their defense, Borussia Dortmund is discussing new trends affecting this season's outcome.
"In the normal course I couldn't have imagined any other champion than Bayern Munich," former Liverpool and Bayern midfielder Dietmar Hamann commented.
Tuesday evenings's top of the table clash against Bayern is going to be crucial for Lucien Favre's team.
Five reasons speak to the Black and Yellows chances of creating a surprise.
SOLID ROCK HUMMELS
The team's lone game since the return of the season without fans made apparent Mats Hummels' development into the team's true leader. It's the loud voice of the 31-year-old that TV viewers and club staff can hear.
The former German international has turned his side's box into safe airspace. With Hummels, only 21 percent of the dead-ball situations lead to a goal (7 of 33). Before the defender returned to his home club from Bayern, 19 attempts of 44 (43 percent) had found the back of the net.
Besides Hummels ruling the airspace in front of the 2012 Bundesliga Champion's goal, a change of the defense strategy seems responsible for the upswing.
The pure zone defense was replaced by a combination of man-to-man marking and zone marking.
"His orders affect our entire game," sports director Michael Zorc stated. The number of successful air-duels increased from 57 to 61 percent. Hummels turned into the team's best aerial defender with a success rate over 76 percent.
Based on recent games, midfielder Emre Can expressed new found motivation. "I didn't join Borussia to end up second behind Bayern," the former Juventus star commented.
The German international spoke of a once-in-a-lifetime chance to turn the season around and win this year's title.
"Teams on their way to winning titles need determination. You need to see that in daily training sessions," the midfielder added. When he joined the BVB, "I didn't see much of that, but things have changed fundamentally."
LESS OUTSIDE EMOTIONAL INFLUENCE
The first matchday behind closed doors revealed Dortmund might be the profiteer of the new football atmosphere.
While Bayern usually draws energy from the negative mood of the crowd in away games, Dortmund is much more comfortable with fewer emotions from off the pitch.
The team has dealt best with the new circumstances. Football in corona times has been reduced to its basics. A technically advanced style seems to provide more efficiency.
Hummels claims: "I could never get through to one of our midfielders or attackers in a packed arena. Now they can hear me."
GIFTED ATTACKING LINE
Statistics of the first round of ghost-games provide evidence that individual skills have a greater effect.
Erling Haaland (10 goals/3 assists) and Jadon Sancho (14/16) are the first teenagers achieving double-digit goal rates in the league's history.
SECOND ROW COMPENSATING LOSSES
Thorgan Hazard (6/11), Achraf Hakimi (3/10), Raphael Guerreiro (7/3), and Julian Brandt (3/5) filled the gap of the injury losses of Axel Witsel, Can, Giovanni Reyna and team captain Marco Reus.
German international Brandt turned into an inspirational source in midfield, dealing perfectly with his new role as the team's midfield powerhouse.