Northern giants Werder Bremen and Hamburg will finally meet again for the first time in three years, but now in Bundesliga 2. - © DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH
Northern giants Werder Bremen and Hamburg will finally meet again for the first time in three years, but now in Bundesliga 2. - © DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH
2. Bundesliga

Werder Bremen and Hamburg ready to renew storied Nordderby rivalry


The first Nordderby of the season between Werder Bremen and Hamburg takes place on Saturday. The game has added importance this term given that both teams are desperate to get promoted from Bundesliga 2, but it's a fixture that has always been significant in the calendar.

The Nordderby - or northern derby - between Bremen and Hamburg had been the most common match-up in the top flight since the inaugural Bundesliga season in 1963/64. The two clubs locked horns in that campaign for the first time in October 1963, with Bremen winning 4-2.

Markus Anfang's side would gladly take another home success by the banks of the River Weser on Matchday 7, a result that would put five points between the sides and lift the third-placed Green-Whites closer to the top of the table.

Whatever the outcome, though, it's a game that marks a new phase in the rivalry. It is, after all, the first time the pair have played each other in Bundesliga 2.

Watch: The top five goals in the Bremen-Hamburg rivalry

With Hamburg tracing its origins back to 1887 and Bremen founded in 1899, there has been plenty of time for the contest to develop. The two sides first faced each other in 1927 and - previously the two northernmost teams in the top flight - they have met 108 times in the Bundesliga. The standout fixture had been notably missing from the calendar more recently, however, after Hamburg were relegated in 2018 for the first time in their history.

Geography plays a major role in the importance of the fixture, since the grounds of Bremen and Hamburg are separated by just 56 miles. But success does too, with each side driving the other on in a bid to be the best in the north - and in Germany.

Bremen won the first of their four Bundesliga titles in 1964/65, while Hamburg had to wait until 1978/79 for the first of three Meisterschale in the space of five seasons. Two of Germany's most successful clubs would also claim several European honours too. Hamburg lifted the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1977 and the European Cup in 1983, while Bremen won the Cup Winners' Cup in 1992.

Felix Magath lifted the European Cup trophy after his goal gave Hamburg a 1-0 win over Juventus in May 1983. - via images/WEREK

On the pitch, the balanced nature of the encounters also adds to the appeal - and the needle. Bremen won 39 Bundesliga matches against Hamburg, including the last one in February 2018 when a late Rick van Drongelen own goal pushed the visitors closer to relegation. There were 35 draws in the top flight, while Hamburg recorded 34 victories. The Red Shorts scored 158 goals to 157 in Bundesliga matches between the teams.

"When I came to Germany in 1999, the importance of the two games against HSV was drilled into me," Bremen legend Claudio Pizarro - who got five league goals for the Green-Whites in the fixture - told in 2016. "For me it's still the most important game of the season."

Pizarro was a central figure during one of the most intense - and one-sided - periods of the rivalry. Both Bremen and Hamburg were challenging on multiple fronts in 2008/09, leading to the teams playing four times in three different competitions over just 19 days.

Peruvian striker Pizarro was on target from the spot in the first of those matches, as Werder won 4-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the DFB Cup semi-finals.

Watch: Bremen won the last Nordderby three years ago

A week later Hamburg recovered to beat Die Grünweißen 1-0 away in the first leg of their UEFA Cup semi-final. Ivica Olic then struck twice for the Red Shorts in the return match, but Bremen won the game 3-2 thanks to goals from Diego, Pizarro and Frank Baumann. That meant the tie finished 3-3 on aggregate, enough for Bremen to go through on away goals.

Although Werder would lose the UEFA Cup final 2-1 after extra-time against Shakhtar Donetsk, they lifted the DFB Cup 10 days later thanks to a Mesut Özil strike against Bayer Leverkusen.

By that stage they had already inflicted yet more misery on their local rivals. Hamburg finished fifth in the Bundesliga that season - only eight points behind champions Wolfsburg and just outside the UEFA Champions League places - in part because of a defeat in Bremen. Portuguese forward Hugo Almeida got both the goals in a 2-0 victory on the fourth-last day of the Bundesliga campaign.

This year's matches between the two might have a lower profile, but they are no less important. Both teams lost just once in their opening six Bundesliga 2 games, with Bremen coming into the derby following back-to-back 3-0 wins over Hansa Rostock and Ingolstadt.

Watch: See how Bremen beat Ingolstadt

New forward Marvin Ducksch got three of those six goals, while Moritz Heyer netted an injury-time winner for Hamburg at home to Sandhausen on Matchday 6. Another victory at the weekend would see the midtable visitors leapfrog Werder in the standings - and give them serious momentum in the promotion race.

There have been more lows than highs for both Bremen and Hamburg since the last Nordderby between them three years ago, but in some ways little has changed. The sides will meet again in February on Matchday 24 and - as ever when fighting to be the King in the North - the results of those two crunch ties could go a long way to determining the fates of many over the season.