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A Beginner’s Guide to the Bundesliga: the five biggest rivalries

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We talk about the teams that cannot stand each other in today’s article. If you’ve picked your team, it’s time to know your enemy.

FC Schalke 04 v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images

Today in our guide for new fans of the Bundesliga, we want to talk about some of the biggest rivalries in all of German soccer. And no, it’s not Bayern Munich vs. everybody (though some may disagree).

We’re talking about the games that teams circle on their calendars in the top flight of the Bundesliga. That’s not to say there are not massive rivalries between teams in the second division or between two teams in the same city (aber hallo Bayern v. 1860 Munich or Hamburg v. St. Pauli), but we will have to limit ourselves today.

Now to the list!


5) Borussen Derby: Borussia Dortmund v. Borussia Mönchengladbach

Borussia Moenchengladbach v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Starting in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach are relatively close neighbors who annually battle for the title of the better Borussia. Both BVB and BMG have well established rivalries featured elsewhere on this list. But seeing as they each have the same first name (Borussia means Prussia in Latin) and they both come from Ruhr valley, this fixture always has the potential to heat up.


4) Berlin Derby: Hertha Berlin v. Union Berlin

1. FC Union Berlin v Hertha BSC - Bundesliga Photo by Thomas F. Starke/Bongarts/Getty Images

This fixture of two teams from the German capital may seem too low to the untrained eye. But the lack of history in this fixture lands it at the number four spot. Many capital cities across Europe play host to football teams that are at the top of their domestic leagues, but the history of football in Berlin is rather poor in terms of success and silverware. These two teams, Hertha and Union, make up for it with their political history: Hertha lay in West Berlin and featured in the Bundesliga when it was founded in 1963. Union was in the East and only won promotion to the top flight last season. They have met competitively just five times in total, with the first four taking place in the 2. Bundesliga. The fifth clash — their first in the top flight — took place back in November and featured displays like the one above.


3) Rhineland Derby: Borussia Mönchengladbach v. FC Köln

1. FC Koeln v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga Photo by TF-Images/ Getty Images

Unlike the other fixtures on this list, we will not see this game being played in the weeks to come. That’s because the rivalry game between Die Geißböcke (The Billy Goats of Köln) and Die Fohlen (The Foals of Borussia) was the final game the Bundesliga played before the season was postponed. All four of the major teams from the Rhine River region — Borussia, Köln, Fortuna Düsseldorf, and Bayer Leverkusen — share a hatred for each other. However, the tension between Köln and Mönchengladbach is palpable and has many facets, including swapped managers and club legends.

The best personification of this rivalry came on the final day of the 1977/78 season. Köln and BMG were 1st and 2nd in the league and equal on points. However, Köln had a higher goal difference. In order to win the league, Die Fohlen had to beat Borussia Dortmund by 10 goals. Mönchengladbach did just that, defeating BVB by a massive 12-0 scoreline, one of the biggest in the league’s history. But then Köln dispatched FC St. Pauli 5-0 to break their rival’s title streak and win their second and most recent title.


2) Der Klassiker: Bayern Munich v. Borussia Dortmund

FILES-FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-BAYERN-MUNICH-DORTMUND Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images

There was little rivalry between these sides when they began playing each other. But today, Der Klassiker, a German riff on El Clasico, is one of the most anticipated matches in German football. The teams have combined for 21 of the last 25 Bundesliga titles and fought back and forth battles throughout the early 2010s. Games during this period of heightened tension included a 5-2 DFB Pokal final win for Borussia in 2012, and two straight years of Dortmund wins from 2010 to 2012.

But the most memorable game has to be the 2013 UEFA Champions League Final at Wembley, where the sides met in the first all-German final in the competition’s history. In the dying minutes of a 1-1 draw, Bayern’s Arjen Robben put a slow roller past the Dortmund keeper to clinch the title and earn Bayern their first win against the Black and Yellow since February 2010.


1) The Revierderby: FC Schalke 04 v. Borussia Dortmund

FC Schalke 04 v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

Undoubtedly the most heated fixture in German soccer, the games played between the teams from Gelsenkirchen and Dortmund have never been peaceful affairs. With the two stadiums less than 40 km apart, Schalke and Dortmund have played host to some of the most memorable matches in German soccer history. Both sides have ended streaks and title hopes for the other, and both have had memorable comebacks. In September 2008, Dortmund crawled back from a 3-0 deficit in a matter of 21 minutes to pull out a 3-3 draw. In November 2017, Schalke returned the favor in more dramatic fashion. After conceding four goals in 25 minutes, Schalke battled back throughout the second half, scoring the tying goal deep into stoppage time to steal two points from BVB. With this match set to be one of the first games played in the restarted league, the stakes will be high for these two teams.