The European Clasico Returns to Bavaria

Today, Real Madrid will take on Bayern Munich in Bavaria. It will be the 27th edition of this prestigious tie. Both teams have a long, twisted history between them; and it remains the most common fixture in Champions League history.  Bayern are one step away from a chance at their 7th Champions League title, while Real Madrid remain hungry for La Decimoquinta. Everything is at stake in today’s European Clasico.


The Two Footballing Behemoths


Real Madrid’s return to the Allianz Arena will be their very first since 2018 —  when both clubs also contested a Champions League semi final. Since that fateful season, both clubs have had quite the time of their lives. Despite losing out in that year’s tie, Bayern Munich bulldozed their way to a sixth European crown in 2020. Two years further — against all odds, the Champions League returned to Real Madrid once again. Another two years have passed since that rollercoaster campaign and the European crown is up for grabs.



It is no hyperbole to say that Real and Bayern have dominated Europe for a long time. Both clubs have won 7 of the last 10 European Cups — and FIFA Club World Cups. And they remain the record holders of their respective local leagues. However, the past decade has been a different tune from either club. While Real Madrid has begun strengthening their hold over La Liga, Bayern Munich is cooling off the high that lasted a whopping 11 seasons.


Real Madrid’s renewed ambition for the Spanish crown is partly inspired by their archrivals, FC Barcelona, overtaking them last season. On the other hand, Bayern completed Der Elfte at the eleventh hour, with many thanks to an interesting turn of events. You could say Bayern Munich has been stuck in a cynical “pattern”, which made itself evident amidst last season’s title grind. Despite stacking up the firepower of Harry Kane, Bayern have looked their weakest in over a decade.


To start with, Bayern’s 11-year hold on the DFL Supercup ended in a 3–0 smackdown from RB Leipzig. A couple months later, Saarbrücken knocked out Tuchel’s men in the DFB Pokal. Earlier this month, the Bavarians ceded their crown to Bayer Leverkusen. However, the dream of zwölfte sunk once Bayern got trashed 3–0 at the BayArena. It sank even further after the next match at Bochum’s Vonovia Ruhrstadion. Safe to say, the dominoes gave way afterwards.



On the other end, Real Madrid lost their top marksman, Karim Benzema, in the summer and added Jude Bellingham to the mix. This change inspired Carlo Ancelotti to formulate a new winning formula that has seen Los Blancos through their impressive season so far. After overcoming Manchester City, Barcelona, and Real Sociedad, in the past couple weeks, Real Madrid are looking to seal the deal in May. However, the team’s core veterans know how difficult it is to win against Bayern Munich.


Europe’s Greatest Rivalry?


Los Blancos made their last trip to Munich during the gritty & glorious three-peat era. In those days, Zinedine Zidane’s men won both of their visits with a hard-earned 1–2 scoreline. However, the return legs at the Bernabéu would prove no easier for Real Madrid.


Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern fought tooth & nail to win both ties. The 2017 Quarter Final edition ended in a 4–2 scoreline after extra time with a load of controversies. Real Madrid made it through thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s five goal-haul and Marco Asensio’s stunner.



Bayern were not gentle guests in the following season’s semis either. The Germans laid a determined siege to the capital that night; it was a textbook grind for Real Madrid. Joshua Kimmich opened the scoring just 3 minutes after kickoff but Karim Benzema’s double kept Real Madrid ahead even after James Rodriguez equalized. However, it was Keylor Navas’ brave display that owned the show.


Yeah, it was quite intense. But one could say both ties were a little bit milder than the preceding matchups — just a little bit though. After Madrid’s historic win over Bayern in 2017, Sergio Ramos was captured in an iconic photo with former manager Carlo Ancelotti. Tensions were quite high in that particular affair but this particular moment was quite wholesome.


They were the pair that brought La Decima home after all. However, neither Ramos nor Ancelotti would have been so groovy in the Jose Mourinho era. Surviving the 2011 El Clasico World Series was enough jet fuel to become arguably the best team in the world. However, Bayern still went blow-for-blow with Mourinho’s army.


And they won. The Bavarians treated the Santiago Bernabéu to high-voltage penalties that brought the Special One to his knees. Die Roten had fulfilled their euphoric dream of contesting the final in front of a home crowd at the Allianz Arena. While Real Madrid’s La Decima dream was delayed, Bayern’s bronze medal completed a trio of ‘Nearly’ finishes in the DFL Pokal & Bundesliga. It was the hardest season a Bayern fan could endure. Occurrences like that were not a commonplace for Bayern, and they made sure to never repeat them.



In the following season, Jupp Heynckes’ men ran through the continent — especially in the semifinal where they torched Barcelona with a 7–0 aggregate win. Meanwhile, Real Madrid battled Borussia Dortmund on the other side of the bracket. However, Jurgen Klopp’s Yellows valiantly sank another chance at Madrid’s fabled La Decima. The anticipated European Clasico final remained a future date. In real time, Bayern took on Dortmund in a Der Klassiker final to complete their first-ever treble.


Summer 2013 ushered in a couple of changes at both clubs — big changes. Pep Guardiola returned from his sabbatical to lead Bayern Munich. Meanwhile, Real Madrid let go of Jose Mourinho after a third consecutive loss in the European Semifinals. They chose Carlo Ancelotti to be his successor. Of course, those changes did not stall either of the European giants. Real Madrid & Bayern Munich would clash once again in the Champions League semi finals. The 2014 European Clasico started with a Bayern onslaught at the Santiago Bernabéu.


Guardiola’s men had the most possession; while Real Madrid weathered the storm with Iker Casillas behind the solid defense of Fabio Coentrão, Pepe, Sergio Ramos & Dani Carvajal. At the front end, Benzema scored the only goal of the night. The gritty duel ended with a 1–0 advantage for Madrid, but there was no telling what awaited Los Blancos in Munich.


The following week, however, it was Real Madrid who amped up their assault. In the first half, Sergio Ramos scored from two headers in four minutes. Likewise, Ronaldo scored a goal in each half. The first goal was a blistering counterattack from the BBC trio and a triple La Manita to celebrate another historic record.



El Bicho’s second, however, takes the cake. Ronaldo stepped up to the spot and slipped a sublime effort under the wall and beyond Manuel Neuer. For the first time in tweleve years, Real Madrid would play in the Champions League final. The season ended with a league-cup double for Bayern Munich. And Real Madrid would endure a tough Madrid derby to bring La Decima home.


La Bestia Negra


Navigating the history of this highly chaotic matchup gets even more twisted. For almost every era of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid has been there.  In 1976, the Santiago Bernabéu was packed to see Real Madrid take on Bayern for the first time. Ten years had passed since the Ye-yes conquered Europe, and the Spaniards were hungry for more glory.


When the match took a frustrating turn, a bold fan, now known as El loco del Bernabéu, invaded the pitch and whacked the referee. That season ended in Bayern’s first European Cup triumph. About a decade later, Die Roten & Los Blancos had another wild date that saw Juanito kick Lothar Matthäus in the face. Despite the chaos, Bayern won the match but lost the Final to Porto



The following season, Juanito had started his five-year ban while his teammates beat Bayern in a fine display at the Bernabéu. Those grievances were never lost to time however. At the turn of the century, Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men scored four goals to wallop Real Madrid in both legs of the 2nd Group stage. After overcoming Porto in the Quarterfinals, the Bavarians were face-to-face with Real Madrid yet again.


3 May 2000: Despite being humbled two months ago, Real Madrid were hungrier for victory than they had ever been. Los Blancos already lost the Copa del Rey semi final to Espanyol and were slipping behind in the six-legged title race. It had been two years since the euphoria of La Septima; they were not ready to wait another 32 years.


Fernando Redondo captained a Madrid side that featured Casillas, Raul, Roberto Carlos, Morientes, Salgado & co. that night. It took Anelka’s opener and an own goal from Bayern’s Jeremies to see the Germans off. Bayern regrouped at the Olympiastaidon for a 2–1 win but they came up short.


Real Madrid advanced to face Valencia in what would become La Octava. Bayern Munich got their payback the following season, and also went on to beat Valencia in the final. Even after the score got even, Los Blancos could not escape the Black beast. The Galacticos had to prove themselves against Bayern in the Quarterfinal before lifting the 2002 Champions League trophy. But that was the last season when either club went all the way for a very long time.



A European Cup drought enveloped both clubs for the next decade. Yet, Bayern-Real remained the European Clasico. They still dueled — malicious as ever — trading blows in the dark.




Make no mistake, today’s match-up will be just as intense as it was 40 years, 20 years ago. And that is not because the players/coaches now are as good or better than those that made history back then. It’s just the way it is; the names change but the game remains the same.


In recent memory, Carlo Ancelotti has gotten the better of Thomas Tuchel but that has never come easy. Toni Kroos, Dani Carvajal, Luka Modric & Nacho Fernandez are only two games away from six Champions League titles — and Lucas Vazquez will be fighting for a 5th ring. Brazilian duo Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo Goes are eager to conquer Europe once again. This season has been the first of many for Jude Bellingham; you can be rest assured that he will fight tooth & nail to crown his all-timer campaign.



Harry Kane’s story has been less glamorous. Despite leaving his boyhood club in the summer, the England Captain’s new path has taken a bittersweet tone. Although Kane leads Europe in goals, that has not sufficed to end his career-long trophy drought — yet.


Tuchel’s men are crowded into a narrow corridor where winning seems to be the only option. Bayern’s veterans — Joshua Kimmich, Manuel Neuer & Thomas Muller — will have to rally their teammates. Many times past, Bayern Munich have dared to rise to the occasion. And tomorrow must be one of them.


The European Clasico, like every great rivalry, could always go either way. For a Champions League tie of this caliber, the stakes are always high. One constant is this: history will be made.


By: Ayomi

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Getty Images