Energy drinks, '50+1' and a furious Yellow Wall: Borussia Dortmund vs RB Leipzig is a must-watch
A bitter rivalry in the Bundesliga...
Club football resumes after the international break and while there are some high-profile fixtures in top European Leagues – Liverpool's draw against Manchester United (again, Jose?), Inter take on Milan and Atletico Madrid take on Barcelona – there is a tie in the Bundesliga which caught everyone’s attention earlier this year and is worth keeping an eye on.
The club from Saxony, RasenBallsport Leipzig, have managed to ruffle quite a few feathers and that includes the Dortmund ultras. Having said that, you don’t get to challenge clubs like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund consistently by being the good guys, do you?
When the two sides took on each other in 2016, at the Red Bull Arena, things were in control. Leipzig managed a win courtesy of a Naby Keita strike early in the game and they held on to eke out their first home win of the campaign. After that result, Dortmund had to play catch up as Leipzig played good football and picked up wins consistently without too many intermittent hiccups.
When Dortmund hosted Leipzig in February, though, things were very different. Dortmund, fourth back then, took on a side who were essentially in their spot. Leipzig’s form meant they emerged as the second-best team behind Bayern Munich and that perhaps added an extra zeal to the stadium that was effervescing even before the first kick of the game began.
But passion and resentment are two entirely different things and although we generally look at the Dortmund fans as a passionate and a behaved bunch – something that they did show in their solidarity after their side’s bus was attacked prior to a UCL game – things quickly got out of hand against Leipzig.
Traditionalists vs the newcomers
The reason why the German league is so unique is the unique 50+1 rule which prevents the club from being owned by foreign investors, and thereby ensuring the club’s members are in control. Leipzig’s sporting director Ralf Rangnick’s opinion didn’t help matters as he felt the rule was ‘old-fashioned’ and should be scrapped for the teams to compete more evenly.
Borussia Dortmund, on the other hand, have a CEO -- Joachim Watzke -- who firmly disagrees, and so do their fans, of whom 150,000 are members of the club. So you can sense that the disagreement is massive.
The clash between two goes way back as Rangnick was once a Schalke manager as well, so there’s certainly no love lost there. However, what happened in February was indeed a disgrace.
The famous ‘Yellow Wall’ of Dortmund spat and hurled bottles and stones at the travelling Leipzig fans -- men, women and children included -- which resulted in a ban from the German FA. The club were fined €100,000 and a part of the Sudtribune was closed for the subsequent home game against Wolfsburg.
The tables have turned
Dortmund have started the season extremely well and sit at the summit, while Leipzig are fourth and six points behind. Unlike last season, it’s Dortmund who have had the stability this season as manager Peter Bosz hasn’t experimented too much with his backline which has resulted in much more stability. Dortmund have hence conceded just two goals in seven games, an impressive feat.
Leipzig have struggled to juggle the European and League games but have managed to keep up so far. They usually raise their game against the big teams, so expect a closely fought encounter, though Dortmund start as slight favourites for the game.
Why is the game a must-watch?
The two were never big rivals, but because of what has transpired in the last year, you can sense every time the two take to the pitch, there will be an inevitable clash of sentiments. Another reason why you shouldn’t miss the game is because of the threat Leipzig possess.
Rangnick is someone who has experience of managing top clubs and has successfully transitioned into the role of a director. With Ralph Hasenhüttl doing a good job as coach, Leipzig could be a consistent threat to the best two sides – Bayern and Dortmund – in the coming years.
Why am I so confident? The club are ruthless when it comes to running things behind the scenes and Redbull didn’t just take over to reach the top-flight and watch their side compete in mid-table.