With Matchday 19 already upon us, the Bundesliga is back in full flow while among the several stand-out fixtures to get excited about this weekend, Cologne versus Bayern Munich is one for the footballing connoisseurs.
All eyes will understandably be on the battle for attacking supremacy, with sharp-shooter Anthony Modeste hoping to upstage the lethal Robert Lewandowski at the RheinEnergieStadion. The two have managed an impressive 32 top-flight goals between them this season and are apt ambassadors for a game that boasts an intriguing Bundesliga back catalogue.
Watch: When Bayern edged Cologne on Matchday 2
Inaugural champions vs. record champions
It was, after all, none other than Saturday’s hosts who won the first-ever edition of our favourite league in 1963/64, a season when Bayern didn’t yet feature in Germany’s top division. Led by talismanic captain Hans Schäfer, the Billy Goats – who had 16-goal top scorer Karl-Heinz Thielen up front – won the inaugural edition of the Bundesliga, scoring 78 times. Bayern, meanwhile, had to wait until 1968/69 to emulate Cologne’s achievement, although the Bavarian giants have since made lifting the Meisterschale something of a habit.
Indeed, such was the intensity of Bayern’s rivalry with another Bundesliga giant, Borussia Mönchengladbach, that the men from Säbener Straße battled their way to four titles by the time Cologne managed to collect their second (and last) at the end of an exciting 1977/78 campaign.
Thomas Müller, Lewandowski, Manuel Neuer and co. currently form part of one of the world’s best teams, with Bayern proudly sitting atop the all-time in terms of Bundesliga titles (30) and aiming to add to their current unmatched run of nine consecutive top-flight crowns. Back in the day, the Billy Goats pushed the Munich club close on three occasions, finishing runners-up to the current league leaders in 1972/73, 1988/89 and 1989/90. Bayern also downed their opponents on Saturday in extra-time of the 1971 DFB Cup final, goals from Franz Beckenbauer and Edgar Schneider eventually cancelling out Bernd Rupp’s early opener in Stuttgart.
Watch: Beckenbauer - Bayern greatness personified
The aforementioned Thielen formed a memorable partnership alongside Christian Müller in that inaugural Cologne Bundesliga-winning season while it would be forward magicians Hannes Löhr and Dieter Müller who starred when the side from North Rhine-Westphalia won it again in '78. Dieter Müller found the back of the net a crucial 24 times as Cologne won the title on goal difference from Gladbach.
His namesake, Gerd Müller (all no relation) was Bayern’s goal machine, netting 136 times in the Bavarians’ four-title winning campaigns between 1969 and ’74. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Müller is the leading marksman in Cologne versus Bayern Bundesliga history, the footballing icon scoring 14 times in this fixture. And no guesses as to who comes next, with living legend Lewandowski hitting 11 past the Cathedral City club.
It may have been 44 years since Cologne were last German champions, while they have been relegated six times since, however, the Billy Goats have proved to be a troubling thorn in the side of the record German champions down through the years.
Bayern may themselves have never dropped down a division since first appearing in the Bundesliga, but they have dropped points to Cologne on many an occasion over the years. Only Borussia Dortmund can match Cologne in terms of most victories (9) away to Bayern, while the Bavarians' home win rate of 52 per cent against the Billy Goats is their worst against any opponent to visit Munich five times or more.
Watch: All Lewy's 43 goals in 2021
Hennes vs. Berni
Saturday won’t just see two teams at the top of their game battling it out for three crucial points. There will also be the small matter of which mascot gets to roar, or bleat, the loudest come full-time. Cologne’s emblematic Billy Goat, Hennes, may have been around far longer than Bayern’s bear, Berni, but the pair are equally passionate about their respective teams each and every matchday.
Named after their former coach, Hennes Weisweiler, the idea for Cologne’s inspirational goat came about back in 1950, when circus director Carola Williams gifted the four-legged creature to the club as a symbol of luck during Carnival time. Berni the Bear, in comparison, is a young upstart, having only come into existence in 2004. That should matter little when the sides take to the pitch this Saturday, however, when Bundesliga fans can hope for one more game for the ages between Cologne and Bayern Munich, two of Germany's greats.