On Saturday, December 7, 2019, first-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach will host current champions FC Bayern in what will be the revival of Germany’s original Klassiker.
Nowadays, Der Klassiker describes the clash between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
Originally, labeled by some clever marketing campaign the German Clasico—in allusion to El Clásico, the biggest game in LaLiga between titans Real Madrid and FC Barcelona—Bayern against Dortmund is a relatively new rivalry that was quickly coined Der Klassiker—instead of using the Spanish term.
The term “Der Klassiker” is, however, borrowed from the big games between Bayern and a different Borussia - Borussia Mönchengladbach. Until the 1990s, Borussia Dortmund were a relatively small club in German football and nowhere near a close rival to the Bavarian powerhouses
Then, in 1992/93 Dortmund reached the final of the UEFA Cup (since reformatted and formed into today’s Europa League) and with the influx of money, built a team that won two Bundesliga titles and the UEFA Champions League in the 1990s. Three more Bundesliga titles followed in the 2000s, and two more came under Jürgen Klopp in 2011 and 2013. Then, in 2013 Dortmund also reached the Champions League final, coming up just short against Bayern Munich at Wembley.
Without a doubt, Dortmund are now Germany’s second-largest club behind Bayern Munich. But they are not Bayern’s original cross-German rival.
Instead, it was Borussia Mönchengladbach that were Bayern’s first true rival in Germany. In the 1970s the Foals won five German championships (70, 71, 75, 76 and 77) and the UEFA Cup in 1975 and 1979. The Foals also reached the final of the European Cup in 1977 where they lost to Liverpool in Rome.
Bayern Munich were less successful domestically during that timeframe. They won the Bundesliga title three times from 1972 to 1974. But then played second fiddle to Gladbach’s domestic dominance and brilliant midfielder Günter Netzer.
Nonetheless, it was Bayern’s most successful era. The Reds won three successive European Cups from 1974 to 1976 under the leadership of the legendary Franz Beckenbauer. Those three European titles have somewhat overshadowed the fact that it was Gladbach, not Bayern, that dominated the league in the 1970s.
The emergence of Bayern as a superpower certainly has its foundation in those three European trophies. But it was not until the 1980s that Bayern became the most dominant force in German football. The Rekordmeister won 24 of its 28 Bundesliga titles from 1980 onwards. Gladbach, in the meantime, have been without a Meisterschaft since their last title celebration in 1977.
For the Foals from the relatively small town of Mönchengladbach, it was simply impossible to keep up with Bayern located in the rich city of Munich—riches well explored by the first modern manager of the game, Uli Hoeneß.
With Stefan Effenberg as the club captain, Gladbach would win the DFB Pokal in 1995. It was Gladbach’s first and only title in the modern era. What followed was times in the lower regions of the Bundesliga and even stints in Bundesliga 2.
Then in 2008 sporting director Max Eberl took charge. Ironically, a former Bayern Munich youth player, Eberl has slowly but surely rebuild Gladbach. This season, with new head coach Marco Rose, who was signed from Red Bull Salzburg this summer, the Foals have taken the Bundesliga by storm.
Under Rose, Borussia Mönchengladbach are first in the league, one point ahead of RB Leipzig and four points ahead of fourth-placed Bayern. They play a refreshing attacking brand of football that Rose cultivated at Salzburg.
With 13 games played there are now several pundits that believe that the Foals are for real and could be a serious title challenger for Bayern this season. “It will be a top game,” Gladbach striker Breel Embolo told the German magazine kicker. “We can’t afford to lose, that is without a doubt,” Bayern captain Manuel Neuer said.
For Bayern, a defeat would mean a seven-point gap to first-placed Gladbach. A win for Gladbach could very well see the emergence of a new German football power, and the return of the true Klassiker.