Northern giants Hamburg and Werder Bremen are rivals in the truest sense of the word. - © © imago / MIS
Northern giants Hamburg and Werder Bremen are rivals in the truest sense of the word. - © © imago / MIS

Werder Bremen vs. Hamburg set for Nordderby clash - but what does it all mean?


Both at the wrong end of the table this season, Werder Bremen and Hamburg will meet this weekend for the Nordderby. But just what is this captivating clash all about? gives you the lowdown on the the oldest and most frequently-played grudge match in Germany’s top flight.

Currently locked in a relegation battle with time rapidly running out on the 2017/18 season, HSV and Werder are desperate to take all the spoils from Saturday evening’s meeting. Winless in ten, Bernd Hollerbach’s men look to be facing their hardest-ever fight to maintain their proud record of never having dropped out of the Bundesliga.

Sitting second from bottom, Die Rothosen can spy Bremen just two spots further ahead, yet with a significant gap of six points to make up on their rivals, who have won just five games all season. Yet if one game can produce the inspiration needed for either side to turn things around, it’s the Nordderby.  

Watch: The 107th Nordderby was an eventful affair ...

What is it?

It’s the meeting of two of the most successful clubs in Germany, who also happen to be relatively near neighbours. Only 116 kilometres separate Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion from Bremen’s Weser-Stadion, and while the two clubs have challenged each other on the field, the two port cities they represent have also powered each other off it as economic forces in the north of the country.

Why does it matter?

It has a lot to do with tradition. Hamburg traces its history back to 1887, while Werder were formed in 1899. The first meeting of the two northern giants was in 1927, and since the first Bundesliga season in 1963/64, no rivalry has been as enduring in the Germany’s elite division.

Hamburg have featured in every Bundesliga seasons so far, while the Green-Whites have spent only one year out of the elite after being relegated in 1980. Both teams had cause to boast in the early days of the newly-formed league. DFB Cup winners in 1963, Hamburg saw local boy Uwe Seeler finish as the Bundesliga’s top goalscorer in its inaugural season. The West Germany star netted 30 times in that campaign as the Red Shorts finished sixth, but a year later Werder were crowned champions at the end of the 1964/65 season.

Hamburg's Brazilian midfielder Walace (r.) gets to grips with Werder's Max Kruse. - © gettyimages / Martin Rose

How successful have the participants been?

The trophy cabinets of both clubs are not too dissimilar. Bremen won the last of their four Bundesliga titles in 2004, and have been runners-up on seven occasions. Hamburg, meanwhile, were crowned champions three times between 1979 and 1983, and have finished second in the top flight five times.

On the European scene, HSV won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1977 and the European Cup in 1983 while Bremen won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1992 and were runners-up in the UEFA Cup – now known as the UEFA Europa League – as recently as 2009.

Is it a one-sided rivalry?

The battle to be king in the north has been fairly even over the years. Ahead of the second meeting of the sides in the 2017/18 season, Bremen led the series with 38 wins and 34 defeats in the Bundesliga. There were also 35 draws – no other pair of teams have drawn as often in the league’s history. Hamburg have outscored their rivals 158 goals to 156 in their meetings to date, but there have been 10 scoreless games – including on Matchday 7 of the current campaign.

Former Werder hero Claudio Pizarro celebrates UEFA Cup semi-final glory against HSV in 2009. - © imago / Thorge Huter

Has familiarity bred contempt?

A former Hamburg forward and Germany Under-21 manager, Horst Hrubesch has the best strike rate in the fixture – scoring seven times in eight matches between 1978 and 1982. Seeler scored six goals against Bremen, while ex-Germany striker Rudi Völler found the net six times in his nine games against Hamburg.  More recently, Bremen’s foreign imports Hugo Almeida and Claudio Pizarro both netted five times in the league against the Red Shorts.

Back in 2008/09, both teams were scrapping it out for honours at the business end of the campaign. So much so, in fact, that they ended up meeting four times across three different competitions in only 19 days.

The first meeting, on 22 April 2009, was a sign of things to come. Bremen won a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw in the DFB Cup semi-finals, and the Green-Whites would go on to win the final thanks to a Mesut Özil goal against Bayer Leverkusen.

Hamburg struck back a week later, though, when Piotr Trochowski’s strike gave them a 1-0 away win in the first leg of the UEFA Cup semi-finals. Ivica Olic struck twice for Hamburg in the second leg, but only either side of goals from Diego, Pizarro and Frank Baumann for the visitors. That meant the tie finished 3-3 on aggregate, and that Bremen went through on away goals.

Hamburg were fifth in the Bundesliga that year - only eight points behind champions Wolfsburg - and they narrowly missed out on a UEFA Champions League spot. One reason for that was because their great rivals, who finished 10th, had one last surprise for them with four league games to go. Back on home soil just three days after their UEFA Cup win, the Green-Whites enjoyed a 2-0 Nordderby success thanks to a brace from Portuguese forward Almeida.

Click here for the Nordderby Match Centre!