Pressured by fat television contracts with, among others, Fox and Eurosport, the Bundesliga money-men branded Der Klassiker to increase the league’s marketability and sell the game to the masses. This weekend, Borussia Dortmund will host Bayern Munchen at the Signal Iduna Park in what will be the 95th Bundesliga edition of Der Klassiker – the Bundesliga’s answer to the fierce rivalry between Spanish giants Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
However, contrary to what the media would want you to believe, the Spanish rivalry cannot be compared to the rivalry between Dortmund and Bayern mainly because they do not share the same history.
Secondly, the Bundesliga has seen too many diverse title challengers. The majority of the league’s history is rooted in the likes of Borussia Monchengladbach, HSV and Bayern Munchen. Those clubs were running riot for decades and were only occasionally challenged by FC Koln, Stuttgart, FC Kaiserslautern, and Werder Bremen.
Looking at the start of the Bundesliga, the first ever top-flight encounter between Bayern Munchen and the black-and-yellows took place during the 1965/66 campaign. However, until the 1990s, when Ottmar Hitzfeld went on to secure back-to-back titles in 1995 and 1996 with Dortmund, there was no rivalry to speak of.
Admittedly, Dortmund started to turn themselves into a counterbalance to Bayern after they picked up their first Bundesliga title in 1994/95. Since then, one of the two aforementioned clubs turned out to win the Bundesliga on all but four occasions. However, since 2013, the Bavarian-based club has been showing, once again, that Der Klassiker is everything but a fair fight. Concerning the Bundesliga, Bayern put 25 points between themselves and runners-up Dortmund in 2013, 19 points in 2014, and 10 points in 2016. So far this season, Bayern share the lead with newcomers RB Leipzig and although it is still early, the chasing pack does not yet seem to include Thomas Tuchel’s Dortmund.
It seems a point has been reached where one must come to terms with the likelihood that the Bundesliga will become a monopoly, again. This, however, is not necessarily a negative development, as clubs like Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke, Wolfsburg, Borussia Monchengladbach, Dortmund, and possibly even RB Leipzig will have to put up more intense fights to secure their Champions League spots. However, one day, Bayern’s hegemony will be challenged yet again in an effort to end their annual claim to the Bundesliga title.