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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EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches

The German Bundesliga kicks off on Friday evening with a match in Mönchengladbach. Here's a run-down of the Covid rules for football fans itching to join the crowds at the stadium.

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches
Crowds cheer at a match between FC Kaiserslautern and Borussia Mönchengladbach, on August 9th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Anspach

All eyes will be on Mönchengladbach this evening as the Bundesliga season kicks off with a match against reigning champions Bayern Munich – and this time, a crowd will be present in the stadium.

READ ALSO: German football fans get green light to return to stadiums next season

With several states liberalising their rules for public gatherings in recent months, many football fans are looking forward to enjoying a lively atmosphere at football matches once more. 

There’s just one problem: there are different rules for different stadiums. Here’s what you need to know about the Covid rules before you book your ticket for any of the upcoming fixtures. 

How many fans are allowed in the stadiums? 

According to a recent decision by the federal and state governments, football stadiums around the country are allowed to fill half of their seats and sell up to 25,000 tickets to fans. 

Of course, how much this limit affects the overall atmosphere – and the football clubs’ bottoms lines – depends on the capacity of the stadium. In Borussia Dortmund this weekend, the full 25,000 tickets have been sold – but that only equates to 30 percent of the stadium’s full capacity.

READ ALSO: German football: Which Bundesliga club should I support?

Meanwhile, in the stadium owned by Berlin’s FC Union, selling just 11,000 tickets is enough to fill half of the available seats. 

What do I need to show to get in? 

That really depends on the stadium in question, although in general anyone over the age of six will need to show a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery – the so-called ‘3G’ rule – to enter the grounds. But other clubs, such as FC Cologne, have decided to only permit people who are vaccinated or recovered to attend matches from August 28th onwards – with exceptions for people who can’t get vaccinated, like children and pregnant woman.

At Mönchengladbach’s Borussia Park stadium, however, unvaccinated fans can enter with a negative test, though visitors who’ve stayed in a high-risk or virus variant area over the past two weeks will be unable to enter – along with people who’ve had recent contact with someone who has Covid. 

If you want to see action like this at FC Cologne’s stadium, you’ll need to get your Covid jabs sorted first. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund has taken a middle ground. While the 3G rule applies in principle, only 1,000 of the available 25,000 tickets will be sold to people who are providing a negative test. The remaining 24,000 seats will only be available for those who are vaccinated against – or recently recovered from – Covid. 

If you’re not vaccinated and are keen to see a match, it’s worth checking on your local club’s website beforehand or sending them an email to double-check whether you will be allowed in. 

What else do I need to know about? 

You’ll need to bring a FPP2 mask with you to matches to wear in your seat and while heading to the bathroom or bar, and also observe social distancing rules – meaning staying 1.5 metres apart from your fellow fans.

In most states, you’ll also need to provide your contact details, which will be saved by the club and potentially passed on to local health authorities in order to monitor a potential Covid outbreak. 

Will these rules continue throughout the season?

That’s still an open question. If infection rates in Germany continue to rise or high-profile superspreading events occur at future matches, the government could potentially crack down further on sports events in autumn.

This could involve limiting the seat numbers even further, or (more controversially), introducing a ‘vaccinated-only’ rule for entering stadiums. 

READ ALSO: Should Germany bring in Covid restrictions for unvaccinated people only?

A recent outbreak of Covid in the Mainz football team has also dampened celebrations slightly in the run-up to the start of the Bundesliga – leaving club owners urgently calling for both fans and footballers to get vaccinated. 

Speaking to WDR ahead of the season’s start, FC Cologne’s managing director Alexander Wehrle said widespread vaccination was the best route back to normality – a message reiterated by Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann.