- Associated Press - Monday, March 24, 2014

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - It wasn’t always so easy for Bayern Munich.

Bundesliga championships used to be decided on the last day of the season, or even in the last minute. In a famous episode in 2001, Schalke thought it had won its first title and its fans and players were already celebrating - too soon, it turned out.

Schalke had beaten Unterhaching 5-3, while Bayern Munich was losing 1-0 in Hamburg. Both teams were even on points but Schalke had a better goal difference.

The match in Hamburg went into injury time and Bayern scored to snatch the title with a draw.

Precise German timekeepers say Schalke had been “champion” for four minutes and 38 seconds before Bayern pulled off its stunning feat, leaving Schalke to be “the champion of the hearts” but with no silverware to show for it.

Such extreme drama and suspense seem very unlikely any time soon.

Bayern won last season’s championship with six games to spare and had 25 points more than Borussia Dortmund in the end.

This season, Bayern may top even that.

If it wins on Tuesday at Hertha Berlin, Bayern will have the title with seven games to spare, the earliest champion in the Bundesliga’s 51-year history. Bayern is 23 points ahead of Dortmund.

By winning 2-0 in Mainz on Saturday, Bayern notched its league-record 18th consecutive win and stretched its unbeaten run to 51 games - also a record.

While Bayern can be entertaining to watch, its dominance is such that the title race in the Bundesliga has become a huge bore.

It’s a close battle for second and an interesting struggle to avoid relegation involving some big-name clubs such as Hamburg and Stuttgart, but the title has been practically decided by the 12th round, when Bayern took a four-point lead.

Bayern is unbeaten this season - and looks likely to go all the way without a loss - and has drawn only two matches, against Freiburg and Bayer Leverkusen. It won 3-0 at Dortmund and its victories include a 7-0 rout at Werder Bremen; 5-1 against Schalke; 6-1 in Wolfsburg. It has scored 76 goals, while second-best Dortmund has 17 fewer. Bayern has conceded only 12 goals, 17 fewer than Dortmund.

“It’s not easy for us to play outstanding games all the time with a 23-point lead,” Bayern coach Pep Guardiola said in Mainz, where Bayern came alive in the last 10 minutes to score twice.

Last season, Bayern accomplished an unprecedented club treble by sweeping the Champions League, the Bundesliga and the German Cup.

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