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A ten-year history of Der Klassiker (Part 1)

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25th May, 2020

On Tuesday night (Wednesday morning in Australia) the two biggest clubs in Germany go head to head in a game that has been given the tagline of ‘Der Klassiker’, but has only really recently developed into a fierce rivalry.

Traditionally Munich’s rivals have been Borussia Moenchengladbach, while Dortmund has an un-matched hatred towards the Royal Blues of Schalke.

Gladbach actually won more domestic titles than Munich in the 1970s and Munich only started becoming the dominant force they are today in the 1980s – with nobody coming close since.

Dortmund did emerge in the 1990s as a rival for a period of eight years between 1995 and 2003, but even in that period when they won three league titles and a European Cup, they only defeated Munich twice in the league.

After severe mismanagement Dortmund nearly went bankrupt and saw Bayern financially bail them out, before emerging in the late 00s as a team that no longer spent big on players, but that instead promoted from within and utilised a scouting network to unearth gems.

This was all done with a bright new coach by the name of Jurgen Klopp who was plucked from Mainz, and this is where the modern-day rivalry really began.

Round 1: Van Gaal versus Klopp (2009-2011)
In the summer of 2009, as Jurgen Klopp was about to start his second season at the helm, Bayern Munich appointed the renowned tactician Louis Van Gaal.

The Dutchman was fresh from winning the Dutch league with the unfancied AZ Alkmaar, and led Bayern to a domestic double alongside a Champions League final, in his first season.

After a slow start for Van Gaal, his fifth Bundesliga match saw a trip to Dortmund and he was looking for his second win of the season after a poor start.


The scores were level at halftime, but Munich eventually emerged as 5-1 victors thanks to substitutes Thomas Muller and Frank Ribery being brought off the bench to score three of Munich’s four second-half goals.

This second half performance kick-started Munich’s season, and they never looked back, beating Dortmund 3-1 in the return fixture the following February.

Dortmund did manage to finish the season in a respectable fifth place which was their highest position for seven years.

However, this was not enough for Klopp, as along with bringing in young starlet Mario Goetze into the first team to play alongside other recently promoted homegrown talents such as Mats Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer, he bought a Japanese winger by the name of Shinji Kagawa, an Australian back-up keeper by the name of Mitch Langerak and two Poles – a right-back from Hertha, Lukasz Piszczek and an unknown attacker by the name of Robert Lewandowski – all of whom proved crucial to the outcome of the 10-11 season.

The two sides met in Round 7 when Dortmund were the surprise pace-setters and were now looking to avenge the defeats from the season before.

Jürgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp. (Photo: AFP)

Klopp set his team up to play their now-famous counter-pressing game, forcing the Munich defender Martin Demichelis into making two mistakes from which their Paraguayan striker Lucas Barrios and future Liverpool signing Nuri Sahin were able to capitalise, giving Dortmund a second-half 2-0 lead.

Shinji Kagawa was able to run the game against a Munich midfield featuring German legends such as Schweinsteiger, Muller and Toni Kroos.

By the time the two sides met the following February at the Allianz Arena, with Dortmund were still at the summit, but had just been dealt a blow by Kagawa suffering a season-ending injury, and so it looked a hard ask for them to defeat the Champions in their own back yard.

However, a team featuring Mitch Langerak deputising in goal, and Robert Lewandowski – slotting into Kagawa’s position, behind the main striker Barrios – were able to race into a 2-1 lead thanks to goals from the same scorers, Barrios and Sahin, before young centre back Mats Hummels scored a decisive third goal from a corner to put the game to bed, effectively winning the title for Dortmund.

The youngest side ever to play for Dortmund had beaten the champions home-and-away even beating Bayern in Munich for the first time in twenty years.

This defeat, along with getting knocked out of the Champions League by Inter Milan again, cost Van Gaal his job as he was sacked just over one month later. Meanwhile, Klopp was the new hero of Dortmund and was starting to attract attention to the Bundesliga from an international audience.

Winner: Klopp and Dortmund


Round 2: Klopp versus Heynckes (2011-2013)
The following year saw changes at Dortmund as Sahin was sold to Madrid, while Mario Goetze was becoming the star of this midfield, and it was Gotze who scored the winner against Bayern in November 2011 in a 1-0 league victory in Munich.

This season also saw a huge stroke of luck in the trajectory of all both sides. As this was the season that saw Robert Lewandowski moved into a central striker position due to an injury to Lucas Barrios which he gained playing in the 2011 Copa America.

This was quite possibly one of the biggest pieces of fortune for both the Pole and Dortmund, as he had a sensational season after being close to leaving for Blackburn Rovers the previous year, eventually scoring thirty goals in all competitions.

Four of these were against Munich, as he first scored the winner in the return league game at the Westfalenstadion as they romped towards a second league title under Klopp, before scoring a hat-trick in the German Cup final, in Berlin, as Klopp’s men hammered Heynckes side 5-2 to win the double, with Kagawa and Hummels scoring the other two goals.

Dortmund's Paco Alcacer celebrates after scoring

Dortmund has been the second-best side in Germany for some time. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, file)

Jupp Heynckes had a lot of goodwill in Munich, and he needed it at the end of that season, as not only did they lose three times to Dortmund in a season, but he also lost the Champions League Final, to Chelsea, in Munich.

However he did what Munich do, and remained calm, strengthened by buying the extremely under-rated holding midfielder come centre back, Javi Martinez, and Croatian International striker Mario Mandzukic.

The two sides faced each other in the German Super Cup at the start of the season, with Heynckes side making a statement by winning 2-1 thanks to early goals from Mandzukic and Muller before Lewandowski replied late on.


They were not, however, able to beat Dortmund this season in the league, although the two 1-1 draws saw them at least restore some pride against Klopp’s side.

They did however pick up more points than Dortmund against the other sixteen teams to pip them to the 2012-13 title and stop BVB winning their third title in a row.

More importantly, after clinching the title, they had two other games against Dortmund still to play as the two sides faced off in both the German Cup Final and the Champions League final.

An Arjen Robben goal saw Munich win the Cup Final 1-0, with both he and Ribery playing a vital role as the two inverted wingers were capable of both mazy runs to the outside or cutting inside onto their preferred foot.

Then to May 25th at Wembley in England, where the whole world was watching two Bundesliga rivals playing for Europes top prize. Mario Mandzukic again scored, before Gundogan replied, but Arjen Robben scored another winner, to deliver an incredible treble.

The sad thing about this, unless you are a Munich fan, was that this treble completely eclipsed Klopp and Dortmund’s achievements the year before.

Then to rub salt in the wound, Munich announced before the final, that Mario Gotze would be signing for Bayern, this ultimately gave this rivalry a much more bitter edge.

Winner: Munich and Heynckes


Round three: Klopp vs Guardiola (2013-2015)
A rivalry that is now such a key part of the Premier League, started in Germany in 2013, as after Munich had won the treble, it would be a hard feat to match or repeat.

So what they did was to hire one of the most tactically advanced coaches in the World in Pep Guardiola. The rivalry started with Klopp winning the first encounter in the Super Cup, as Dortmund drew first blood with a 4-2 win on the opening showcase of the season.

However, Guardiola, would turn Munich into one of the most interesting sides to watch in the world, as they achieved a second successive league title under his guidance and then later beat Dortmund in the a second consecutive German Cup Final, with Arjen Robben again the main tormentor in the 2014 showcase.

As a consolation, Dortmund did defeat Munich in the second league meeting of the sides in April, but by this time, the league title was already wrapped up.

The most significant meeting between the teams occurred in early autumn, at Signal Iduna Park, where, with the game goalless, Mario Gotze was introduced to a barrage of boos from the home fans, and of course scored the first goal, in an eventual 3-0 win for the Champions.

Then for the second season in a row, Munich did the dirty on their rivals and announced that Lewandowski would be joining Munich in the summer to further deplete the Dortmund squad and strengthen Bayern’s.

Robert Lewandowski, after making the move to Munich. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

The following season, saw Dortmund again win the Super Cup in August, but this turned out to be a false dawn as Klopp’s side had one of their worst seasons in recent history, flirting with relegation for the first half of the season, before climbing back up into seventh on the last day and Klopp then subsequently resigning.


In the Bundesliga, they lost twice to Munich, with Lewandowski, of course, the scorer in both games, and with the games between the two teams becoming more one-sided, people started to question, is Der Klassiker even worthy of its tag?

Round 3 winner: Pep