A head for heights: second-placed Borussia Dortmund visit sixth-in-the-table RB Leipzig on Saturday. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA
A head for heights: second-placed Borussia Dortmund visit sixth-in-the-table RB Leipzig on Saturday. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA

Bundesliga rivals RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund separated by 100 years - but how different are they?

Star quality in abundance? Check. Electric counter-attacking play? Check. A burning long-term desire to dethrone Bayern Munich as Germany's best? Check. RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund actually have a lot in common, even if their backgrounds are poles apart.

Dortmund – visitors to Leipzig's pristine Red Bull Arena on Matchday 25 – are the very definition of a Traditionsverein. Rich in history, and a founding Bundesliga member, BVB have claimed eight national titles to date, including five in the Bundesliga era, as well as four DFB Cups and the 1997 UEFA Champions League. Their acclaimed Signal Iduna Park is the largest stadium in Germany and boasts the highest average attendance and the biggest standing terrace in Europe, while their membership numbers (154,000) are among the top four on the continent. Until Leipzig crashed the party, they were the one team that could hold a candle to Bayern – on and off the pitch.

Watch: Discover the allure of Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park

When Dortmund collared their most recent Bundesliga title in 2012 – their second on the spin at Bayern's expense under now Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp – Leipzig were carving out an existence in the backwaters of German football. Although the Saxony outfit had only been founded in 2009 - 100 years after Borussia - significant financial clout combined with shrewd management and a self-determination to reach the Bundesliga at all costs hastened an unprecedented ascent of the league ladder. In 2016, at the end of their seventh full season as a licensed club, Leipzig had joined Dortmund in the promised land, as the 55th member of the Bundesliga cast; but that was just the start.

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On Matchday 2 of the 2016/17 campaign, Naby Keita scored a dramatic winner to hand the Bundesliga greenhorns their first ever win at Germany's top table – against top-flight staples Dortmund no less. The result was a portent of things to come: Leipzig - with their 17 club members - assumed the role of contenders as BVB became the pretenders, finishing second and third behind Bayern respectively. Three points stood between the two sides when the last ball was kicked in May 2017, and three points separate them now. Only this time, it's the Black-and-Yellow veterans from the Ruhr with their noses in front.

That's all part and parcel of mixing it with football's elite, of course, as Dortmund know all too well. Reus and Co. have the battle scars to show for it, but their collective experience and rediscovered consistency could make all the difference as the season enters a make-or-break phase, with a top-four finish in the Bundesliga and a place in the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals still to play for.

"We were eighth when I started, but now we're second," Stöger said. "It's tight at the top, we have competition and Leipzig are going to be tough to beat. Both sides want to win, it'll be a frenetic game with a lot of counter-attacking football and space to play in. Leipzig are very dangerous, but we're well prepared. We're the hunted now."

Leipzig want what Dortmund have got, BVB crave what the Eastern upstarts had at the end of last season. Whichever way the remainder of the 2017/18 campaign pans out, this is one rivalry Bundesliga fans have not heard the last of.

Chris Mayer-Lodge

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