By William Hill
Last Updated: 12th November 2019
Football provides us with some of the greatest rivalries in sport, offering up fixtures that stop the world in its tracks. From El Clasico to the Old Firm, we take a look at some of world football’s most passionate.
El Clasico – Real Madrid vs Barcelona
When talking about the world’s greatest football rivalries, there’s only place to start: El Clasico. Real Madrid and Barcelona. World football’s two leading lights. They share a whopping 18 European Cups, 59 La Liga titles and 49 Copa del Reys between them, play inside two of the planet’s premier football theatres, in the Santiago Bernabeu and Camp Nou and have had their pick of some of the greatest players to ever grace the game – from Alfredo Di Stefano and Johan Cruyff to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. When you add to the mix a political tension off the pitch, with the city of Madrid the capital of Spain and Barcelona having long advocated Catalan independence, it makes for a fixture like no other.
The North West Derby – Manchester United vs Liverpool
Forget the Manchester City’s and Chelsea’s of recent years, the two biggest teams in England have, for the most part, been Manchester United and Liverpool. No other team has won the English top flight more than these two. With a rivalry between the two north-west cities that stretches back to the industrial revolution, Liverpool first dominated English football in the 1970 and 1980s, before United took over the mantle for the next two decades, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s premonition that his side would “knock Liverpool off their perch” coming true. The balance of power has since changed hands once more, with Liverpool the European champions and eight points clear at the top of the Premier League table – much to United fans’ dismay.
The Old Firm Derby – Celtic vs Rangers
With a mammoth 104 Scottish top-flight titles between them, it’s safe to say that Celtic and Rangers are the two biggest clubs in Scotland – and that the Old Firm derby is one of the oldest and most hotly contested rivalries in world football. Football is just one key factor at play in this one though, with social, religious and political tensions also playing their part in a fixture between two Glasgow-based clubs separated by their opposing Catholic and Protestant views. Celtic have arguably had it easy in recent years after Rangers were relegated from the Scottish Premiership in 2012 following a financial collapse, going unbeaten in the 2016-17 season. Rangers have since returned to the top flight, however, and are dreaming of a first Scottish title since 2011.
Super Clasico – River Plate vs Boca Juniors
If there’s one rivalry that can beat the Old Firm Derby when it comes to passion, then it’s Argentina’s Super Clasico – arguably the fiercest derby in the world. Argentina’s two most successful clubs, with 69 top-flight titles between them, are only seven kilometres away from each other in Buenos Aires, but their fans couldn’t feel further apart, with the fixture representing a symbolic battle between rich (River Plate) and poor (Boca Juniors). It’s reported that 73% of Argentina’s population support one of the two sides and it often feels like they are all packed into the same stadium together when the sides meet – with the atmosphere inside the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti or Estadio Alberto J. Armando on matchday unlike no other footballing venue on earth.