Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Bayern Munich: a clash for the ages. - © DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Bayern Munich: a clash for the ages. - © DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga

Why is Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Bayern Munich such an important fixture in the Bundesliga?


Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach enjoyed one of the Bundesliga's defining rivalries, sharing the Meisterschale in nine consecutive seasons during the 1970s. takes you on a trip down memory lane to a golden era for both clubs, and the Germany national team...

Watch: Bayern vs. Gladbach explained a few years ago by Tifo Football

From Yugoslavia with love

The two clubs both arrived in the top flight in 1965, having won promotion from their respective regional leagues. Bayern had been snubbed when the Bundesliga was set up two years beforehand – with 1860 Munich earning a berth as the champions of the Oberliga Süd in the preceding season and the DFB only allowing one representative per city – but they quickly adapted to life in the fast lane.

Under former Yugoslavia midfielder Zlatko Cajkovski, they finished third in their first campaign and won the DFB Cup, which led to a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup triumph the following year.

Cajkovski built his team around the remarkable 'golden trio' of goalkeeper Sepp Maier, sweeper Franz Beckenbauer and centre-forward Gerd Müller – although it was his old Yugoslavia teammate, Branko Zebec, who guided the Bavarians to their maiden Bundesliga crown in 1968/69. Müller, who remains the Bundesliga's all-time leading scorer with 365 goals, netted 30 that season as Bayern won their first national title - and only second overall - since 1932.

Gerd Müller scored all of his record 365 Bundesliga goals for Bayern Munich. - imago sportfotodienst

The Foals strike back

It didn't take long for Gladbach to grab their share of the limelight. Under the guidance of the legendary Hennes Weisweiler – who was responsible for training coaches at the German Sports University in Cologne, and later gave his name to the national coaching centre – they scooped their first Bundesliga title in 1969/70.

While Bayern's style was based around strict discipline and a solid defence – with Beckenbauer pulling the strings in the sweeper role he all but invented for himself – Gladbach were resolutely attacking, with the fast-paced and youthful nature of their football earning them the 'Foals' nickname they still bear proudly to this day.

Gladbach had plenty of class acts of their own to match Bayern, in particular star playmaker Günter Netzer. With a supporting cast made up of Berti Vogts, Herbert Wimmer and Jupp Heynckes, they swept to back-to-back titles in 1970 and 1971, becoming the first side to successfully defend the Bundesliga Meisterschale.

See the full list of Bundesliga champions here

A future manager of both clubs, Heynckes spent three years at Hannover before returning to hometown team Gladbach in 1970, going on to notch 168 Bundesliga goals for the side in a glittering eight-year spell.

Watch: Heynckes' top 5 moments as a Bundesliga player and coach

International glory

The two teams continued to spur each other on to ever greater heights. Müller inspired Bayern to the 1972 title with an eye-watering tally of 40 goals and followed that up with hauls of 36 and 30 as the Bavarians won three championships in a row, another unprecedented feat at the time.

The teams' stars also put their club rivalry to one side to help Germany enjoy a sensational start to the decade. Only five of the 18-man national squad for UEFA Euro 1972 plied their trade outside of Munich or Mönchengladbach, and nine Bayern or Gladbach players started the final against the Soviet Union, which Germany won 3-0 thanks to goals from Müller and Wimmer.

Two years later, eight Bayern and Gladbach players took to the pitch at the Olympiastadion in Munich for the 1974 FIFA World Cup against the Netherlands. Johan Cruyff and Co. were expected to triumph with their swashbuckling 'Total Football', but despite going behind in the second minute, it was Germany who emerged victorious thanks to goals from Paul Breitner and Müller. Not only were the Bavarians and North Rhine-Westphalians dominating their national league, they were now sitting on top of the world as well.

A West Germany team heavy in Bayern and Gladbach talent won the 1974 World Cup. - imago/Colorsport

Dining at Europe's top table

Naturally, their domestic success soon spilled over into Europe. Several months before the 1974 World Cup, Bayern were crowned European champions after defeating Atletico Madrid 4-0 in the final replay, having required a 120th-minute equaliser from defender Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck in the original showpiece – considered by some as the most important goal in the club's history. They would go on to win the continent's top prize again in 1975 and 1976 at the expense of Leeds United and Saint-Etienne respectively.

Although Gladbach seized the Bundesliga crown back from Bayern in three consecutive seasons from 1975 to 1977, they could never quite match their rivals on the European scene. They reached the final of the 1977 European Cup but went down 3-1 to Liverpool in Rome. On the other hand, they did strike gold in the UEFA Cup in 1975 and 1979.

Hennes Weisweiler oversaw 404 competitive games as Gladbach coach, winning three Bundesliga titles. - imago

Going separate ways

The end of the 1970s marked a turning point in the fortunes of both clubs. While Bayern continued to enjoy unparalleled success throughout the 1980s and beyond, Gladbach could never quite recapture the magic of their glory days. They narrowly missed out on the title in 1984 – finishing third behind VfB Stuttgart on goal difference in a three-way tie at the top – and their only domestic trophy of the past 40 years has been the DFB Cup in 1995.

One of the final games between the teams during that era seemed to foreshadow what lay ahead. In March 1979, Bayern travelled to Gladbach and thumped their rivals 7-1, with later CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge scoring a hat-trick. It remains the biggest victory between the two sides in 110 Bundesliga meetings to date.

There was another memorable encounter on 18 May 1974, just 24 hours after Bayern had beaten Atletico in that European Cup final. While playing on consecutive days would now be unthinkable, Udo Lattek's side had to turn up after a night of revelry and unsurprisingly lost 5-0. However, as well as being freshly minted continental champions, the Bavarians had already sewn up the Bundesliga title the previous week. "On the bench, we laughed every time a goal went in," Lattek later reminisced.

Bayern won three of their six European Cups/Champions League titles to date during the 1970s. - imago sportfotodienst

A resurgent rivalry?

Lattek was in the Gladbach dugout three years later as the Foals travelled to Munich looking to wrap up their fifth title and claim a first-ever Bundesliga victory away at Bayern. They secured the league crown, but a late Hans-Jürgen Wittkamp own goal prevented them from getting the win as it finished 2-2, in Beckenbauer's final game in Bavarian colours. Incredibly, it was not until October 1995, some 30 years after their first top-flight meeting, that Gladbach finally claimed their first Bundesliga away win over Bayern.

While the modern-day rivalry between the two clubs has lost a little of its spark, Gladbach boast one of the better recent records against Bayern. Though they have not prevented the record champions from winning the last 11 Bundesliga titles – taking their haul to a staggering 32 – the Foals have often proved a thorn in the Bavarians' side, claiming 10 wins (to 10, plus five draws) at the expense of their old foes since the start of the 2011/12 campaign.

Igor de Camargo made it a miserable Bayern debut for Manuel Neuer as he nodded over the onrushing keeper to hand Gladbach a 1-0 win on the opening day of the Bundesliga in 2011, while Marco Reus and Patrick Herrmann were on target five months later as the Foals completed an impressive double. No team has done won both league games against Bayern since that 2011/12 season.

Raffael hit a brace in March 2015 to give Gladbach all three points against Pep Guardiola's men, while they were one of just two teams to beat Bayern in the league in 2015/16. In fact, the 2013/14 and 2016/17 campaigns are the only two where the Foals failed to take points off the Reds.

Pep Guardiola's (l.) Bayern lost twice to Gladbach in 2013/14. - imago/MIS

And then there was the unforgettable DFB Cup tie between the old rivals early in the 2021/22 campaign as the Foals thrashed the previously all-conquering Bavarians 5-0 in the second round. It was Bayern's heaviest defeat in any competition since 1978.

A special relationship

It hasn't all been one-way traffic, of course. Bayern came from 3-1 down after 10 minutes on the final day in 2012/13 to beat Gladbach 4-3 and set a new Bundesliga points record of 91 on their way to a historic treble.

The Bavarians romped to a 5-1 victory at Borussia-Park in the 100th Bundesliga clash between the two teams in April 2018, but lost 3-0 on their own patch earlier that season.

Bayern then claimed a 6-0 victory at home in May 2021 as they celebrated winning the title that day. 

But then they failed to managed a win in five competitive meetings across 2021/22 and 2022/23 before finally ending their Gladbach drought at the start of this season with a late Mathys Tel winner.

Watch: Later of Bayern, Yann Sommer set a new record for saves to earn Gladbach a point in August 2022

For many it will never be the 'original Klassiker', because the term 'Klassiker' didn't exist when Beckenbauer, Netzer, Müller and Heynckes were strutting their stuff in the Bundesliga. But there is no denying the special rivalry that exists between Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach, the kings of German football in the 1970s – and long may it continue.

Andy Smith