Part of the appeal of the Bundesliga is its traditional derbies, like the biannual clash between Werder Bremen and HSV. DW's Davis VanOpdorp thinks the league needs the Nordderby to keep its identity and appeal intact.
Despite the 0-0 scoreline, the Nordderby between Hamburg and Werder Bremen was once again an entertaining Saturday night showcase.
Tatsuya Ito electrified the Volksparkstadion crowd with his pace and physicality in his first Bundesliga start. Dennis Diekmeier got into Fin Bartels' or Ulysses Garcia's face when he felt he had been wronged or made a great play. Ishak Belfodil and Kyriakos Papodopoulos pushed and shoved as they battled for position.
The teams combined for 25 shots - the most of any Bundesliga game on Saturday - as goalkeepers Christian Mathenia and Jiri Pavlenka registered multiple spectacular saves.
But the game ended in a scoreless draw, a result that helps neither Hamburg nor Werder Bremen kick-start their Bundesliga campaigns. Hamburg remain in 15th place and Bremen in 17th after seven league games, and they have scored just seven goals combined in that time.
The Nordderby is one of the few traditional derbies the Bundesliga has left. If one or both of these teams doesn't get their season going, the Bundesliga may lose one of its top rivalries.
A changing identity
There is no denying the ongoing trend of new clubs coming into the Bundesliga – some with very little history at all – and taking the spots of the more traditional German clubs. Red Bull-backed RB Leipzig and Dietmar Hopp-funded TSG Hoffenheim now reign in a division where giants like Kaiserslautern and Nuremberg used to.
But even as inevitable change turned the German league system on its head, the Bundesliga maintained its fiercest rivalries. The Ruhrderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke is still one many circle on their calendars, and Cologne's return to the top flight has revitalized their Rhinederby with Borussia Mönchengladbach - although their fans still miss their meetings with neighbors Fortuna Düsseldorf. Despite Bremen and Hamburg flirting with relegation on more than one occasion over the last five years, the Nordderby is still a fun fixture to watch.
The Bundesliga has already lost some of its tradition as it aims towards a global appeal. The fan groups of some traditional clubs scream chants condemning the German football league (DFL) and Germany's football association (DFB) on a weekly basis. Meanwhile, some of the newly established powers often struggle to fill their stadiums.
Julian Nagelsmann has openly criticized the atmosphere at some Hoffenheim home games while, despite the supposed popularity of RB Leipzig in Saxony, tickets for the club's first ever Champions League fixture against Monaco struggled to sell out.
Losing the Nordderby would be another major blow for the Bundesliga. If either Hamburg or Bremen land in the drop zone this season, part of the Bundesliga's soul will go down with it.
The Volksparkstadion in Hamburg was rocking on Saturday night despite the scoreless result, the kind of atmosphere that makes the Bundesliga what it is. It would be a shame for the Bundesliga if that atmosphere dropped into to the lower leagues.