BUNDESLIGA: DER KLASSIKER: AN ELECTRIFYING FIXTURE
Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern München are household names all over the world these days, and the fixture has long held great significance. It is a clash that has the power to electrify fans everywhere and one that has produced countless highlights.
The two bona-fide football heavyweights have finished as the top two in four of the last five seasons, they have met in three DFB Cup finals in recent years and even in the final of the UEFA Champions League. Those were just the latest additions to the rich history and intriguing sub-plots that surround Der Klassiker.
Since the Bundesliga’s inception in 1963 and Bayern’s swift ascent of the football ladder in the 1970s, Die Münchner have always been the team to beat. The likes of Borussia Mönchengladbach, Hamburger SV and SV Werder Bremen have all challenged the domestic order to varying degrees of success down the years, but the record German champions have always come out the other side all the better for it.
In the mid-to-late 90s and then in the Jürgen Klopp-era, however, Bayern’s mettle was put to the ultimate test by a familiar foe hailing from the predominantly working-class Ruhr district. Surprising many under the unrestrained tutelage of coaching newcomer Klopp, Dortmund made an emphatic return to the pinnacle of the German game by winning back-to-back Bundesliga titles as well as the 2012 DFB Cup. Just like that, the Bayern monopoly had been broken.
BAYERN BITE BACK WITH A VENGEANCE
In need of a serious pick-me-up after playing second fiddle to Dortmund for two seasons running, Bayern ironically appointed Matthias Sammer – he who had won the Bundesliga with BVB both as a player and as a coach- as sporting director in a bid to lift them back to the top of the pile. Sure enough, the Bavarians enjoyed a new lease of life in 2012/13, coasting to the Bundesliga title, lifting the DFB Cup and edging Dortmund in the first all-German Champions League final at Wembley Stadium. Normal service, by Bayern’s standards, had been resumed.
Domestically, Bayern have continued to reign supreme ever since. The record German champions won a Bundesliga and DFB Cup double in Pep Guardiola’s debut campaign and defended their league crown with room to spare in 2014/15. BVB, for their part, finished a distant second in 2013/14, but came up some 33 points short of their great rivals from Germany’s south in Klopp’s final season in charge.
ONCE AGAIN THE BUNDESLIGA’S TOP TWO
A dip in standards effectively ensured Klopp’s successor, Thomas Tuchel, had carte blanche when he stepped into the Dortmund breach in summer 2015, and while the easy-on-the-eye attacking element has remained, it has been refined to the point where it is much less ‘heavy metal’ and far more rhythm and blues. Add layers of determination and discipline into the mix, and it is easy to see why BVB are Bayern’s nearest pursuers ahead of Saturday’s title ding-dong.
Bayern are nevertheless setting quite the pace in pursuit of what would be a record fourth successive Bundesliga title. The defending champions are five points clear of Dortmund and, in Robert Lewandowski, boast one of the most accomplished strikers of the Bundesliga era. The former BVB terrace favourite has scored 23 times this term, albeit only one more than Dortmund speedster Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Both were on target in the reverse fixture – a game Bayern won 5-1.