This coming Sunday, two of Germany’s biggest teams will clash once again. When Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have gotten together lately, the match has been called der Klassiker, a nod to Spain’s true rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Notice the word “true” in the last sentence. Madrid and Barcelona have met an astonishing 262 times in all competitions, including friendlies, with the Catalan club just edging in wins 108 to Madrid’s 96. As a counterpoint, Bayern and Dortmund have played 108 times; the Bavarians notching 49 victories (20 more than die Borusse) along the way.
Pretty much everyone who writes about German football in English hates using the term “der Klassiker”. Instead, we are largely forced into it by editors and such. And yes, we are all mostly friends or at least have become friendly over the years as we’re a rather small group of individuals.
But I digress.
The rivalry between the two teams heated up in the 2011 as Juergen Klopp was busy leading his young group of players to storm the Bundesliga; which they did winning the league in 2011 and the domestic double in 2012. In that period, BVB won this matchup five straight times, including humiliating FCB 5:2 in the ‘12 Pokal final.
Since then, however, Bayern has reinstated their league dominance with an emphatic treble-winning 2013, followed by their own domestic double in 2014, and their third league title in a row the following season. In this stretch, Munich has put together seven victories to Dortmund’s four two of those coming by way of the competitive friendly nature of the DFLSupercup. (An “It only counts if you win” sort-of-match.)
After the horror show of a season that the Black and Yellows had in 2015, they have been revitalized this year under new trainer Thomas Tuchel. Even top of the league for the first five Matchdays until stumbling; drawing against Hoffenheim and Darmstadt in their last two Bundesliga outings. Now four points behind Bayern Munich (with a perfect seven wins out of
seven), Sunday’s clash will be more about BVB trying to keep within arm’s distance of die Roten as a loss would see them seven back. In October.
Meanwhile, Bayern have not been quite imperious as they would like to start the season staving off Hoffenheim and Augsburg to seal late victories they have shown up large when faced with what are traditionally known as the bigger teams; grabbing three goals over Bayer Leverkusen, and Robert Lewandowski’s nine minute, five goal destruction of Wolfsburg. But, Pep Guardiola has had the luxury of rotating his squad; something he wasn’t able to do last season, while impressing with gamechanging second half substitutions.
I’ve been lucky to see a few of these matches in person over the last several years (Bayern’s won twice, and drawn once when I’ve been around), most notably the 2013 Champions League final in Wembley. Most of my friends in the press, like myself, chose not to get accreditation from UEFA; instead choosing to sit with their preferred side. All sitting opposite the stadium from me. I’ve never cried so hard, with so much joy, after the final whistle blew. It’s my all-time favorite moment in football, in a career and a life full of them.
These matches are all generally testy affairs, full of passion and fun to watch, but let’s not call it der Klassiker not yet. Let’s call Sunday’s showdown what it actually is: a must-win for Borussia Dortmund.
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