Der Klassiker: Your guide to the biggest Bundesliga game since 2012

Early Saturday evening sees the 100th Bundesliga meeting of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, with the title well and truly on the line. Here’s what you need to know about German club football’s biggest modern rivalry.

Der Klassiker: Your guide to the biggest Bundesliga game since 2012

From an all-German final in the 2013 Champions League at Wembley to Die Mannschaft lifting the World Cup trophy in Rio just over a year later, the mid-2010s was German football’s crescendo. 

The national side’s fourth World Cup was a triumph of German planning and preparation; the domestic league – the Bundesliga – showed how to create an internationally competitive club competition based on fan inclusiveness and home-grown talent rather than petrodollars. 

Since then, however, domestic and international German football has lagged under a blanket of complacency – and a crisis of competitiveness. 

In the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich have slaughtered all before them on the way to winning an unprecedented sixth straight title, maintaining their dominance by hoovering up the nation’s emerging talent while simultaneously pulling the rug out from under any challenger who dares to give them some sideeye. 

At the same time, Dortmund’s fortunes have taken a tumble, first from a Bayern recruitment raid, a slide later cemented as Jürgen Klopp took his talents to Merseyside. 

However, a refresh of the national side has so far brought back international success, albeit tentatively.

On Saturday evening in Munich, fans will learn if the Bundesliga is making a true return to competitiveness and international legitimacy, or if we’re set for six more weeks of winter.

Der Klassiker

The odd forlorn Black and Yellow hope aside, Saturday’s match between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund is the first that actually matters since the 2011-12 Bundesliga season. It’s the most important meeting between the sides since the 2013 Champions League final. 

Paco Alcacer scores the winner as the teams met earlier in the season. Image: DPA

The 2018-19 Bundesliga season has been an odd one – and not just because Munich aren’t 18 points ahead with seven games to play. German football’s two biggest sides entered the season with new men in the coaching chair. 

After Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes hung up the Bayern clipboard for the fourth and final time at the end of last season, Munich promoted young coach Niko Kovač instead of hiring a tried and true manager from the global carousel of top football coaches. 

Kovač led Frankfurt to a German Cup title in his last game in charge, defeating his future club in the process. 

After years of courting, Dortmund finally got the man they wanted in Swiss coach Lucien Favre. Favre, known for his attention to detail and development of young players, was given his first chance in charge of a ‘big club’ after decades of success coaching in Switzerland, Germany and France. 

2018-19 form

As is a modern necessity given the gap in wealth between the two sides – Bayern’s annual revenue is double that of Dortmund – Die Schwarzgelben’s resurgence has been driven by promising youth and recycled experience. 

Several of their young stars this season – Jadon Sancho (Manchester City), Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid), Paco Alcacer (Barcelona) and Dan-Axel Zagadou (Paris St Germain) – have come from the world’s elite football clubs, heading to Dortmund for the promise of first team minutes and international exposure. 

They’ve been supported by Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney, a backbone of recycled bargain journeymen signed for their experience and cool heads rather than any promise of a future transfer riches. 

At the centre of it all is Marco Reus, the Dortmund-born team captain who has knocked back offers to move elsewhere – including from Bayern Munich – to remain at the Westfalenstadion in search of his first Bundesliga title. If Dortmund are to lift the trophy this year, it will undoubtedly be Marco’s triumph. 

Marco Reus celebrates a goal over Munich. Image: DPA

For Bayern, this season has been a rebuild – but such is their dominance, they were and are still expected to lift the title.

The skeleton of one of German football’s most successful international periods has begun to creak and crack. If they are able to overcome Dortmund while undergoing a rebuild in the process – even with their superior financial muscle – it will be Kovač’s finest moment. 

German football’s biggest (modern) rivalry 

Der Klassiker, otherwise known as the German Clasico, is the moniker given to any clash between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund – German football’s two modern heavyweights. 

The name is a Germanisation of Spain’s ‘El Clasico’, the name given to matches between eternal rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid. Widely viewed as the biggest regular club match in world football, El Clasico, attracts a worldwide viewership of over 100 million every time it takes place – numbers that rival the Super Bowl. 

While Germany’s version won’t get close to those numbers, Der Klassiker has become the biggest match in German club football in recent years.


In truth, Der Klassiker is only a recent invention, with Dortmund-Schalke or Munich versus any one of their Bavarian rivals having a far more significant ‘derby’ character. 

However, the game’s status reflects the recent dominance of both sides. In the past 25 seasons, either Bayern or Dortmund have won 21 Bundesliga titles between them. 

And as money – particularly through international sources and broadcasting rights – has become a bigger factor in football, this dominance looks set to continue.

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Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.