Chelsea FC: Ranking the Blues' 5 Most Hated Rivals

Greg Probert@@GregProbertFWContributor IIFebruary 1, 2012

Chelsea FC: Ranking the Blues' 5 Most Hated Rivals

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    Over the years, Chelsea have had many intense rivalries. Some dating back to as early as the 1930s, and some more recent.

    These aren't necessarily local rivalries, as most Chelsea fans wouldn't consider the two clubs that are closest geographically, QPR and Fulham, as fierce rivals.

    Since Chelsea's rise to success, they have become known as one of the most hated clubs in the country, but who do the Blues consider to be their most hated rivals?

Leeds United

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    One of the older of Chelsea's rivals, Leeds United were once hated by the Stamford Bridge faithful.

    Starting in the 1960s, Chelsea vs. Leeds was one of the most controversial fixtures in the English footballing calendar.

    The rivalry was dubbed "Yorkshire grit vs. flash Cockney." This was due to Leeds being known as a "dirty" team, but Chelsea were also known for their aggression and strong tackling.

    This combination of aggression and passion culminated in many fiercely-contested games between the clubs.

    Unfortunately, this aggression made its way to the fans, resulting in a lot of hooligan activity at Chelsea vs. Leeds fixtures.

    This fierce rivalry carried on for three decades, with Leeds fans naming Chelsea as their second-biggest rivals after Manchester United in a poll taken in 2003.

    But since the clubs have taken different paths in their fortunes, the hatred between them has died down—but if Leeds were to grab a place in the top-flight again, it could be reignited.

Barcelona

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    It might seem strange putting two teams from different leagues in a top rivalry list, but since 2000, there has been an ever-intensifying hatred between the two European superpowers.

    There have been a number of clashes between the two sides, with nearly all of them being a spiky or controversial encounter.

    Some of the more memorable encounters include the 2000 Champions League quarterfinal clash. This game was in the pre-Abramovich era, and Chelsea were just happy to be there. But in the first leg of the tie, Chelsea caused a huge upset when they beat the Spaniards, 3-1.

    Barca dominated the second leg but only won the game 3-1, causing the game to go to extra time. In this extra time, Barcelona were awarded two very dubious penalties and eventually won the game, 6-4.

    Chelsea felt they had been unfairly beaten, so this may have been where the hatred began.

    The most recent clash between the two ended in extraordinary scenes, when Chelsea were dumped out of the Champions League on the away goals rule.

    Few can forget the Chelsea players' frustration at referee Tom Henning Ovrebo, who gave probably the worst refereeing display ever seen in a top-flight competition.

    After having four pretty clear-cut penalty decisions go against them, Chelsea hearts were broken when Iniesta equalised for Barcelona in injury time.

    And although most of the animosity for this defeat was aimed toward the referee, some fans can't help but have some hate for the way Barca got through.

Tottenham Hotspur

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    This is a rivalry that could go unnoticed.

    Maybe because Tottenham's main rivals have always been their North London neighbours, Arsenal. But Chelsea and Tottenham have a fiery history, on and off the pitch.

    There is a huge list of controversial and classic games, dating back over 40 years. Apart from the strong tackles and scraps on the field, the fans have had bad blood between them that has ended in casualties.

    After an FA Cup tie in 2007, a number of fans were stabbed and hit with weapons in the street outside Stamford Bridge. This was a disturbing view into how deep the hatred runs between the two London clubs.

    On the field, Chelsea were known as Tottenham's bogey team, with Chelsea having an almost 20-year stretch of unbeaten games against Spurs in the league.

    Since this run was broken, the two teams have become much more evenly matched in class, and with Tottenham's recent good form, the rivalry seems back on.

    Let's just hope it stays between the two sets of players.

Arsenal

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    Arsenal may have been the first choice for many Chelsea fans, as the friction between the clubs goes back to the 1930s.

    A recent poll revealed that the majority of Chelsea fans consider Arsenal as their main rivals.

    Chelsea fans often comment on how Arsenal fans lack passion and how their stadium has a lack  of atmosphere, and Arsenal fans are quick to reply with the famous "you weren't there before the money" song.

    The club have had alternating periods of success over each other: Arsenal in the 1950s, Chelsea in the 1960s, and then Chelsea's relegation and promotion battles culled the rivalry somewhat.

    But in recent years, both clubs have found themselves as major forces in the Premier League and have had some legendary battles amongst themselves and Manchester United to see who is the top dog in English football.

    Fortunately, the rivalry has remained mostly on the pitch, with the two teams playing in some classic matches.

    This was shown in the most recent league meeting between the two, when the match finished with Arsenal winning 5-3.

    However both teams are doing in the league, Arsenal vs. Chelsea is always a must-watch encounter.

Manchester United

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    There is no denying that Manchester United have been the most dominant force in English football during the Premier League era—it's a fact.

    But recently, Chelsea, among others, have been snapping at United's heels, attempting to take their crown.

    United already have rivalries that are a lot older and more established than their rivalry with Chelsea. Manchester City are their local rivals, and Liverpool are seen as their deepest rivals.

    But for Chelsea, the fans' hatred seems to run coldest for Manchester United.

    At almost every home game I have attended, at some point, the chant "Stand up, if you hate Man U" is belted out, and not one single person remains seated (including myself, of course).

    This is a rivalry of pure football—no underlying reasons, just football. Which makes it a more pure rivalry.

    At Chelsea vs. United games, you can see the passion in the Blues fans, and they want United to lose just as much as they want to see Chelsea win.

    There could be a case for any of the teams mentioned to be No. 1 on this list; it depends on the individual reading it.

    But from my own experience and how these two teams are matched at the moment, I think Chelsea vs. United is probably the most eagerly anticipated fixture in the calendar for most Chelsea fans.