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When is a Klassiker not really a Klassiker?

Tonight sees the latest instalment of the fixture which has in recent years become known as Der Klassiker, the German version of Spain’s El Classico between Real Madrid and Barcelona. In the Bundesliga, the matches between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have earned the nickname, as it represents the head to head match ups between the two strongest teams In the country.

It is unclear when the fixture started being referred to as Der Klassiker, however it is as much a creation of the marketing departments than it is of any sense that there is a genuine rivalry between the two sides. For a start the first competitive fixture between the two was not until 1965, when Bayern Munich first appeared in the Bundesliga. By this time other classic rivalries in Europe had well over half a century of mutual history.

The great rivalry in German football in the 1970s was between FCB and Borussia Mönchengladbach, with their meetings being worthy of being labelled as Der Klassiker (even though no one had thought up such a name then). A variety of teams have challenged Munich’s domestic dominance over the subsequent decades but nothing really emerged as a rivalry to warrant being given a name.

In the mid 2000s BVB got into real financial difficulty and Munich’s leadership provided vital support when Dortmund’s future was in genuine doubt. It was only when Jürgen Klopp took over in 2008 and the team he created won back to back league titles that the fixtures took any particular significance. The two have won the last eleven Bundesliga titles (eight in a row for Munich) between them and are currently first and second in the table, so there is no doubting that it is the most significant fixture in the German footballing calendar. But that doesn’t earn it the soubriquet of Der Klassiker ...

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