6 big rivalries that are no longer horribly one-sided
Manchester United vs Manchester City
It wasn’t like Manchester United used to win every game against their blue rivals – this was still a relatively competitive derby even before all the oil money. But from 2000/01 to 2009/10, the two sides met each other 21 times in all competitions and United led the head-to-head with 11 wins to Manchester City’s six.
Frankly, that’s not terrible: United hoovered up five league titles in that time and City suffered relegation in 2000/01, finishing no higher than 8th in the top tier until 2009/10. But their 3-1 win in November 2002 ended a run of 16 without victory against United stretching back to September 1989.
But from 2010/11 the rivalry became fiercely competitive. In the 21 games in all competitions since, City have won 10 times – including their 3-1 win at the Etihad earlier this season – while United have won eight. Still competitive, but it’s City with the recent edge.
Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid
Historically, Real Madrid have always dominated this fixture. Los Blancos had won 25 of the 36 meetings between city rivals from 1993 until 2012, losing just twice in that period. It got to the point where Madrid fans mocked Atletico with a banner in 2011 that read, “Se busca rival digno para clásico decente” – essentially stating they wanted a worthy derby opponent.
But be careful what you wish for. Diego Simeone assumed control of Atleti at the end of 2011, and set about answering Madrid fans’ wishes. From his first full season of 2012/13 to present, Atletico have avoided defeat in 19 of 28 games, with both teams claiming nine wins.
While Madrid got the better of their rivals in two Champions League finals, both sides have won as many league titles as the other since 2012/13: one.
Sheffield United vs Leeds
From 1987/88 until 1993/94, it was Leeds dominating this Yorkshire rivalry with eight wins in 12 league games. The two teams didn’t face each other again until 2002/03, after Leeds’s financial meltdown – and then the playing field levelled.
They’ve only played 12 games since but the Blades have won eight of those, including March’s pivotal 1-0 win which gave them the upper hand in their battle for promotion. The overall head-to-head now stands at 30-29 in Leeds’s favour – but whether they’ll both be competing together in the top flight for the first time since 1994 remains to be seen.
Arsenal vs Tottenham
There was a time when facing Tottenham was a routine job for Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman oversaw 14 wins in his first 29 games against the Gunners’ north London rivals, suffering just two losses in the process – both of which came at White Hart Lane.
Since 2008/09, however, things have changed. In the 26 games since, Tottenham have avoided defeat in 16 and defeated the Gunners eight times, including two wins at the Emirates Stadium. They have also won five of their last eight home league games against Arsenal in a rivalry that has arguably become the Premier League’s most exciting.
Olympiakos vs Panathinaikos
They’re the two most successful Greek clubs, but it’s the former with a superior record for both league titles and head-to-head. In 24 games in all competitions from 2000/01 until the end of 2011/12, Olympiakos dominated with nine wins and just four losses.
But the tables have turned. In the 14 league games played since, it’s Panathinaikos who are making the Derby of the Eternal Enemies more competitive – they’ve avoided defeat in eight of those games and also enjoyed four victories over the 44-time league champions. Panathinaikos may not have won a league title since 2010 and still trail by 30 wins in their head-to-head, but they’re making up for lost time.
Arsenal vs Chelsea
Like Manchester City, Chelsea overturned their one-sided rivalry with Arsenal thanks to the help of foreign money. As a result, they went on to completely dominate for the next few years: from 2004/05 to 2015/16, the Blues won 17 of 29 games in all competitions, while Arsenal only managed five wins in the same period. Gooners began dreading their fixtures with Chelsea.
There has been a recent shift in the last three seasons, however. Arsenal have lost only two of the last 10 meetings in all competitions since 2016/17, managing four wins along the way – including their convincing 2-0 league win at the start of 2019. In comparison to five wins from 29 games, the tide is turning.
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