Ranking Best Rivalries in World Football
Heated rivalries make sports that extra bit special.
Whether it’s the Yankees vs. the Red Sox, the Celtics vs. the Lakers or Ali vs. Frazier, they all create huge intrigue and excitement—soccer is no different.
Fixture day is one of the most exciting dates on the calendar. Whatever country, division or team you support, you have a rival.
Some are created the previous season, others date back over a hundred years.
But whatever the club, whatever the situation, seasons can be deemed a success or a failure solely on the results of these rivalries.
Here are the top five in the world at the moment…
5. Celtic vs. Rangers
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The Old Firm derby is one of the oldest derbies in football with the very first contested as early as 1888.
The two clubs are pretty familiar with each other, having played 399 times. Rangers currently lead with 159 wins to Celtic’s 144.
Matches are always heated on the pitch, with passion sometimes turning into violence among the club’s supporters.
Much of the hatred originated from political and religious beliefs. Rangers supporters are considered predominantly Protestant and Unionist, while Celtic supporters are purported to skew Catholic and Republican.
Rangers rapid self-destruction into administration has led to a hold on the derby for now, as the club begins this season working its way up out of the newly formed Scottish League One.
Although there is no date set for the next meeting, don’t be surprised if these two rivals clash in one of the cup competitions at some point this season.
4. Inter Milan vs. AC Milan
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The "Derby della Madonnina" is more than a century old and is contested between the two best teams in Milan.
The fact that the two share the same stadium does not help amicable relations with Inter historically linked with the upper class compared to AC Milan’s working class roots.
The atmosphere is so intense that only specially selected referees may officiate whenever these teams meet.
It is the only derby in Europe played by two teams that have been champions of Europe and the world.
The fixtures for this season are announced on July 29, and you know what game both sets of fans will be looking forward too.
Watch out for controversial new signing Mario Balotelli adding plenty of fuel to an already stoked fire.
3. Manchester United vs. Liverpool
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Don’t be fooled by the Manchester derby, the biggest rivalry in English football is still United and Liverpool.
Despite Liverpool’s fall from grace as a major rival to United’s dominance, this fixture is still the one every fan looks out for when the fixture list is revealed.
Liverpool dominated English football from their promotion in 1962 and became one of the world’s very best throughout the 80’s.
But the tide has definitely turned towards the red-half of Manchester and it’s up to Brendan Rogers to restore some lost pride.
He will be determined to close the title gap (which they currently trail 20 to 18) against the newest addition to the Old Trafford, Mr. David Moyes.
Astonishingly, no player has directly transferred between the two clubs since 1962.
There is plenty of bad blood between the two, with the Evra/Suarez racism row as just the latest in a long line of huge incidents between the clubs both on and off the field.
You can expect plenty of fireworks on September 1 as the champions travel to Anfield.
2. Barcelona vs. Real Madrid
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El Clasico continues to be one of the most-watched, most anticipated and most intense rivalries in world football today.
The confrontation dates back beyond football and incorporates a variety of cultural, historical and political reasons for the deep hatred between the two fans.
On the pitch, the clubs are seen as two of the very best in world football with both decorated in titles—Barcelona have 80 major titles/trophies compared to Madrid’s 76.
Add to this the two best players on the planet in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and you have serious competition.
If you transfer from one team to the other, don’t expect a quiet, respectful reception when going back to your ex-club—just ask Luis Figo.
Two new managers will collide this season, but that will not impact the fixture's ferocity.
This rivalry exceeds all players and managers and will continue to do so for decades to come.
Their first meeting of the upcoming La Liga season will be October 26.
1. Boca Juniors vs. River Plate
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They call it the "Superclasico" for good reason, as this rivalry is certainly not for the faint hearted.
Rated as the number one sporting event to attend before you die (via The Observer), this derby has everything you want in a fierce encounter.
The two top teams in Argentina hold the lions share of supporters with Boca currently attracting 40 percent of the nation and River Plate not far behind with 33 percent.
As with all these rivalries, the numbers are very close. The two have met exactly 200 times in the league with Boca Juniors holding the slight advantage with 72 wins to River’s 66.
Boca fans refer to River Plate’s supporters as "gallinas" (chickens), claiming the players show a distinct lack of guts on the pitch while the opposition refer to their counterparts as "los chanchitos" (little pigs).
And although the name-calling is more lighthearted and amusing to the neutral fan, the trouble and violence that is often associated with these matches is certainly not.
The worst occasion was on June 23, 1968 when 71 fans died and a further 150 were injured in a crush at Gate 12. The average age of the victims was just 19.
Fireworks, flare, talent and trouble, this game has everything you want to make this rivalry the biggest in the world.
The two next meet on October 5. Tune in if you get the chance, it’s a must watch. Better still, buy a ticket!