This season has been different to recent campaigns in the Bundesliga as Bayern Munich – winners of the last six league league titles – have been denied a procession.
Borussia Dortmud lead Bayern by two points ahead of the sides’ meeting this weekend at the Allianz Arena but a win for die Schwarzgelben wouldn’t be massively out of the ordinary – they won back-to-back leagues in 2010-11 and 2011-12 and you have to go back a decade for the last winner from outside that pair, VfL Wolfsburg.
In the 1990s, things weren’t as demarcated – Werder Bremen, VfB Stuttgart and Kaiserslautern all claimed the shield. After winning in 1990, Kaiserslautern finished in the top eight in each of the next four seasons but found themselves relegated at the end of 1995-96.
They did bounce back immediately, though, and marked their return to the top flight with a new change kit.
While similar to other adidas styles at the time, notably the 1996-97 Newcastle United change strip, it was, as far as we can ascertain, a design unique to them. The fabric featured mini devils repeated (one of the club’s nicknames is die roten Teufel or The Red Devils).
The fixture list gave Kaiserslautern a tough start as they had to travel to take on champions Bayern. The hosts had launched a new navy home strip but there was enough red on it that a Kaiserslautern change was justified.
However, to avoid a shorts-clash, they used the white set from the previous season’s away.
A 1-0 win set Kaiserslautern off to a great start and they stayed at the top of the table throughout the season, with former Bayern man Ciriaco Sforza –
on his return from a forgettable spell with Inter – excellent in midfield while 1990 World Cup winner Andreas Brehme was also influential in what would be his final season.
Another mashup was seen at Bayer Leverkusen, who had white home socks, and once again they used the 1996-97 change strip.
Die Lauterer won the league with a game to spare – the first newly promoted side to win the Bundesliga – and had a good showing the 1998-99 Champions League before losing out to Bayern in the quarter-finals.
However, they finished fifth in the league that season and would drop in the subsequent seasons, relegated again in 2006. While they did make it back for a two-year spell in the Bundesliga from 2010-12, the relegation then was followed by another last summer to leave them in the third tier for the first time.
They are unlikely to be promoted this year, but at least they have memories of 1997-98.