The most fiercely contested derbies in European soccer

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March 4th, 2021

Soccer rivalries on and off the field can be wildly intense. The battle for supremacy on the pitch can deliver head-to-head wins and major trophies, off the pitch it means so much more. City dominance, bragging rights, social and political supremacy – it can all be wrapped up in an incredibly fierce 90 minutes on the pitch.

Here are the eight most fiercely contested derbies in European soccer.

Manchester United vs. Liverpool

Man United and Liverpool are the most successful English teams in domestic, European, and worldwide competition, and with less than 40km between the two cities it’s no surprise the rivalry is so heated.

Manchester United have the bragging rights in England with 20 league titles to Liverpool’s 19, but the Scousers have six European trophies to United’s three. Overall, the Red Devils have 66 trophies to Liverpool’s 64 and they also have the edge in the head-to-head record with 81 wins, while Liverpool have won 58.

Old Firm Derby: Celtic vs. Rangers

Two clubs based in Glasgow with a rivalry that is so rooted in Scottish culture it is a key part of huge political and religious division. In 2012, Rangers were liquidated and had to start again in the fourth division of Scottish football, and in that time Celtic won nine league titles in a row. But now Rangers are back and on course to end Celtic’s run.

The matches between these two sides are always spicy and a red card is a common occurrence – since World War I only six players have been brave enough to play for both teams.

El Clasico: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona

Arguably one of the biggest games in the world – the El Clasico goes further than just football, it’s deeply political. Real Madrid represent Spanish nationalism, while Barcelona represent Catalan nationalism – fuelling the rivalry between two of the most successful teams in world soccer.

Real Madrid have the edge in competitive matches, winning 97 to Barca’s 96. Lionel Messi is the GOAT of the El Clasico with 26 goals and 14 assists in his 44 games against Real Madrid.

Derby della Capitale: Lazio vs. AS Roma

The Rome Derby is one of the fiercest intra-city derbies dating back to 1927. Mussolini wanted to create a unified Roman club and merge the four teams in Rome, and although three agreed, Lazio resisted, which began this fierce coexistence.

While Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan dominate Italian football in Northern Italy, this rivalry to represent the city of Rome is strongly contested and violence in the stands is a common occurrence.

Roma lead the head-to-head between the two sides with 71 wins to Lazio’s 54, and there have only ever been two direct transfers between the clubs. Attilio Ferraris went from Roma to Lazio in 1927, and Arne Selmosson moved from Lazio to Roma in 1958.

Milan Derby: AC Milan vs. Inter Milan

Both Inter and AC Milan call the San Siro stadium home, which shows how closely these two clubs are linked. Inter were historically considered to be a club for the upper classes, with fans travelling to the game via motorcycle. AC Milan were considered blue-collar fans, as they came to the games via public transport. These traditions are less prominent now, but the rivalry still runs deep.

Both teams have 18 Serie A titles to their name, but Inter hold the head-to-head advantage winning 84 matches to Milan’s 77.

Le Classique: Marseille vs. PSG

A relatively new rivalry, but one that has escalated rapidly since the late 1980s with Paris Saint-Germain’s growing success. A huge class in France between north and south, the hub of political power vs. the working class, the capital city against the province.

Marseille dominated French football for nearly 90 years before PSG were formed, and through the 1990s both sides achieved a lot of success and dominated French football – fuelling the rivalry. Since PSG’s massive financial investment 10 years ago, the gap between the sides has increased, and the Parisians have won 19 of the 24 head-to-head matches since then.

The Intercontinental Derby: Fenerbahce vs. Galatasaray

Known locally as the Eternal Rivalry, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray is the clash between Turkey’s two most successful clubs. In 1934 a friendly match between both teams was abandoned after riots both on and off the pitch with fighting between fans and players on both sides.

This fighting has continued to the modern day and there have even been deaths of supporters caught up in the rivalry. Galatasaray boast 82 trophies to Fenerbahce’s 74, although Fenerbahce have the edge in head-to-head matches with 146 wins to Galatasaray’s 125.

De Klassieker: Ajax vs. Feyenoord

Another football rivalry that pits two huge cities against each other. Amsterdam and Ajax are renowned for their culture and art – a style that is reflected on the pitch by their players – while Feyenoord and Rotterdam see themselves as hard-working and grittier than their flashier rivals.

Ajax have dominated the rivalry on the pitch and in the trophy cabinet, while there have been running battles between fans and hooliganism off the pitch since the 1970s.