Just like Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus and St Etienne, Bayern Munich are their home country's most successful club in terms of league titles won - or the ‘record champions’ as they are popularly known. Naturally, some of these clubs have not always been the top dogs of their respective nations. In England for example, Liverpool led the way in championship titles until United overtook them in 2011.
A similar change at the top took place in Germany rather longer ago. Up until 1987, FC Nurnberg were the nation's most successful club with nine league titles, but Bayern roared past and, at the time of writing in 2012, have added a further 12 Bundesliga titles to their roll of honour.
Nevertheless, the meeting between the Bavarian rivals remains a special occasion, as the clubs’ home grounds in the state capital and the region of Franconia lie a mere 150 km apart. It is not in fact the longest running derby in German football, nor the fixture generating the most intense passion on both sides, but it still involves clubs who have won the national title 31 times between them.
The clubs who go by the simple nicknames of FCB and FCN first met in the Bundesliga more than 45 years ago on 30 October 1965. A 40,000 crowd at Grunwald Stadium, Munich's home ground at the time, saw a one-sided encounter dominated throughout by promoted Bayern, but the visitors parked the bus and held on for a goalless draw. Legendary FCB coach Tschik Cajkovski complained bitterly afterwards about the Franconia side’s destructive tactics.
Tales of derbies past
Up to 2012, including meetings prior to the introduction of the national Bundesliga in 1963, the all-Bavaria derby has been contested 185 times, and the prestige fixture has duly produced its fair share of incidents and anecdotes.
One of the most spectacular clashes was the December 1967 meeting between the teams lying first and second in the standings at the time. A crowd of around 65,000 in Nuremberg saw a Bayern side including Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller thrashed 7-3 by the league-leading home team. Nuremberg’s hero was Franz Brungs, who finished the unforgettable match on five goals, a feat not repeated by any Nuremberg player in the Bundesliga to this day. At the end of the season, FCN proceeded to win the reverse fixture 2-0, sealing the most recent of their nine titles with a game to spare.
Another legendary encounter came in the 1982 German Cup final, although the most memorable feature was not the course of the match, in which Bayern came from two goals down at half-time to win 4-2, but rather FCB and Germany striker Dieter Hoeness. The centre forward bled copiously from a deep cut to the head early in the game and had to play with a turban-like bandage, but he was undeterred and wrapped up the cup triumph with his side's fourth in the 89th minute - with a header.
The clash between the sides in April 1994 included a hugely controversial incident which remains the stuff of legend in German football. Following a corner, Thomas Helmer toe-poked into the side netting, but the match officials inexplicably gave a goal, handing Munich the lead in a match they would eventually win 2-1. Relegation-threatened Nuremberg appealed and the fixture was replayed, although it did FCN no good at all, as their opponents racked up a thumping 5-0 victory, their biggest in the derby to date. A few days later Munich sealed the title, and Nuremberg dropped out of the top flight.
Nine years later, a cup tie provided another memorable moment. The game went to a shootout, where the teams required no fewer than 18 penalties before settling who would go through to the third round. After 17 spot-kicks, with two misses on each side, Nuremberg's Mark Nikl saw his shot saved by Oliver Kahn.
Another historic encounter took place in May 2005, with home team Bayern winning 6-3 on the day. Far more significantly, it was the final match at Munich’s venerable Olympic Stadium, as Bayern moved to their current Allianz Arena the following season.
However, the men from the capital have not always had it their own way, as a 1-1 draw in Franconia in the 2010/11 campaign proved the death knell for Bayern boss Louis van Gaal, who was dismissed the next day.
The rivalry today
Although the clubs were once more or less equals, the gulf between the current and former record champions has steadily widened into a yawning chasm. The men from Munich spend their seasons chasing silverware at home and in Europe, while FCN have oscillated between the first and second divisions, although they currently appear to have found their feet in the top flight.
“For us, it's a privilege to play Bayern every season. Everything we do is geared towards this happening again next season and the season after that," commented sporting director Martin Bader, acknowledging the pair’s contrasting ambitions.
Marek Mintel, the Bundesliga's top scorer in 2004/05 in Nuremberg colours, spoke of a “completely different, special match," when FCN meet the men from the capital. According to Ilkay Gundogan, “Bayern are the great rivals. The atmosphere in Nuremberg before and during every match is totally exceptional." The men from Munich also recognise the special character of the match: “It's a very important game for the fans, which means it's an important game for us too," said 2012 Austrian Player of the Year David Alaba.
For the foreseeable future, the clash is likely to be between title contenders and relegation candidates, but the Nuremberg side will continue trying to bolster pride and their points tally at the expense of their mighty state rivals, just as they always have done.