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Football

Bayern and Dortmund join the classic crowd

German Bundesliga is the latest to pick out a "special" contest as Bayern Munich travel to Borussia Dortmund.

Last updated: 23 Nov 2013 08:37
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Marked man: Mario Goetze is back at the Westfalenstadion for the first time since leaving Dortmund for Munich [AP]

Most football fans would say that they want to see a competitive league in which nearly every team is capable of winning the title.

We can look back ruefully at decades like the 1960s when the English championship, for example, was won by Burnley, Tottenham Hotspur, Ipswich Town, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, and Leeds United.

But let's face it everyone. That's not what we really want.

Yes, we'd like our own team to win the league (although the evidence suggests that people are more and more choosing their "own" team from among those that do win the league, no matter where they actually come from).

Deep inside us, though, it seems there's a shameful secret. We actually want two teams to dominate, and for the rest to cower in their shadow.

It's obvious by the language we use.

Latin countries have used the 'classic' format for a long time, with Boca Juniors and River Plate facing off in the superclasico of Argentina – which, to be fair to it, has one of the more open leagues.

Real Madrid and Barcelona have had La Liga sewn up for decades, so we can label that contest el clasico with a wave of the hand, knowing that one of them will end up winning the title (sorry, Atletico Madrid).

France has la classique between Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille, admittedly based more on mutual hatred than traditional success – although the marketing people will probably wish the label had been postponed until Monaco arrived on the scene with their billions to do battle with PSG.

Anyone feeling left out? Don't worry, it's spreading. On Saturday we can look forward to another one. Der klassiker.

Borussia Dortmund host Bayern Munich in a rematch of last season's Champions League final, and also a contest between two teams that have split the last four German Bundesliga titles between them.

Room at the top

If Dortmund lose, there is the inconvenient possibility of Bayer Leverkusen – the team that so heartbreakingly lost a treble in 2002 – squeezing themselves in between the big boys.

But that's one of the 'other' teams. Back to der klassiker.

Happily for whichever throaty-voiced commentator is doing the voiceover for TV previews this weekend, this match actually has a lot going for it.

Bayern – unbeaten for more than a year, and 37 league matches – have not beaten Dortmund in the Bundesliga since February 2010.

They are helped by the fact that Dortmund have had to replace their entire back four due to injuries, a situation which prompted coach Jurgen Klopp to say that "80 percent of my grey hairs were earned this week."

The signing on Thursday of veteran Germany defender Manuel Friedrich, released by Leverkusen, may or may not help him regain a youthful mane.

Pep Guardiola, who took over at Bayern at the start of the season with the task of defending the three major trophies won by Jupp Heynckes in 2012-13, has had a much more chilled buildup as he tries to take the Bavarians seven points clear.

Franck Ribery broke a rib in France's World Cup playoff win over Ukraine on Saturday, but has two stars in Xherdan Shaqiri and Mario Goetze as understudies.

Goetze, one of the rising talents of the German national team, was on the losing side as Bayern beat Dortmund in May's Champions League final, when his unpopular $50 million move to Bavaria was already a done deal.

The 21-year-old is back at the Westfalenstadion for the first time since leaving, and has been advised by former Germany, Arsenal and Dortmund keeper Jens Lehmann to "not take corners or throw-ins."

Zonal marking in the centre circle might be his best bet.

As for those other teams, Eintracht Frankfurt against Schalke and Nurnberg versus Wolfsburg may not have that classic ring to them. But the Bundesliga still boasts some of the most exciting football and definitely the best atmosphere of any top league in Europe.

Maybe der klassiker is what was needed to give it the attention it deserves.

Paul Rhys is a freelance sports reporter and presenter writing for Al Jazeera from Paris. Follow him on @PaulRhys_Sport or go to paulrhys.com.

Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external websites.

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