Sharing a rich history underpinned by a fervent sense of regional pride, there will be no love lost when Borussia Mönchengladbach host 1. FC Köln on Matchday 22.
Although the two clubs are no longer facing off for the title as they did with such relish in 1977/78, the fixture has lost none of its allure.
Bragging rights belong to Köln… for now
"For me, Saturday can’t come soon enough," said Gladbach defender Oscar Wendt following last Sunday’s 3-2 defeat to Hamburger SV. "We’re all desperate to put right both our defeat in Hamburg and the defeat against Köln earlier this season. We have to win this game. It doesn’t matter how."
The Foals’ 1-0 reverse on Cologne soil back on Matchday 5 was significant for a number of reasons. Not only did the result represent Gladbach’s sixth successive Bundesliga defeat dating back to the tail-end of 2014/15, it also drove head coach Lucien Favre to hand in his resignation. For the first time in a good while, Köln were kings of the Rhine.
Title race with a twist
In the 1960s and 1970s, the power struggle between the two clubs ebbed and flowed almost as much as the famous river that snakes through the industrial Rhineland region they both call home. Köln will forever be remembered as the winners of the Bundesliga’s inaugural season in 1963/64, but they spent the ensuing 12 years or so overshadowed in regional terms by a Gladbach side that lifted all five of their Bundesliga titles between 1969 and 1977.
Then came the game-changer. Hennes Weisweiler, the former Köln midfielder who oversaw three of the Foals’ five Bundesliga championship triumphs as well as going all the way in the 1973 DFB Cup and 1975 UEFA Cup, returned to Köln as head coach to contest what turned out to be one of the most dramatic title races in living memory.
With defending champions Gladbach needing to overturn a ten-goal deficit at the top of the standings on the final day of the 1977/78 campaign, leaders Köln held all the cards. The Foals went on to beat Borussia Dortmund 12-0, but the Billy Goats’ 5-0 victory over FC St. Pauli was enough to hand them German football’s top prize. A second successive DFB Cup win capped the most successful season in the club’s history.
Köln's success continued into the 1980s, with the club reaching the UEFA Cup final in 1985/86. It was the first time the Billy Goats had ever reached a European final, although Real Madrid CF prevailed 5-3 on aggregate. The result must have come as music to the ears of the Gladbach fans, who had watched their side win the competition for a second time six years earlier.
Neither club has hit such dizzy heights in the post-halcyon days, with both experiencing the all-time lows of relegation to the second tier as well as a few other near misses along the way. The head-to-head between the two favours Gladbach in any case - the Foals having won 51 of the Rhineland rivals’ 100 meetings in all competitions compared to Köln’s 29.
At present, however, there is little to separate the clubs ahead of their 84th ding-dong of the Bundesliga era. Three points are all that stand between them in the table, but that will be the last thing on the players’ minds as Gladbach look to avenge September’s regrettable derby defeat and deny Köln their first Rhine derby double in ten years.