Just how close are the world’s biggest club rivalries?
Form goes out the window on derby days, they say. Or does it?
With the fourth Clasico of the season kicking off on Saturday night – the second this week – FourFourTwo decided to take a look at the records of 10 giant rivalries around the world to see who really has the head-to-head bragging rights...
Five that are closer than you think…
Real Madrid vs Barcelona
Real Madrid wins: 95, Barcelona wins: 94, Draws: 51
The biggest match in club football returns for the second time in a week on Saturday night, with plenty at stake: after Barça came out on top in the Copa del Rey semi-final midweek, they now have the chance to pull 12 points clear of their Real Madrid in La Liga.
But there’s even more on the line in this encounter. Should the Catalans overcome Los Blancos, it will mean Barcelona draw level with Madrid on their head-to-head record for the first time since 1931.
On January 31 that year, Real Madrid began a 14-match unbeaten run against their arch-rivals – still the longest such record in the fixture’s history – and in doing so, started a personal supremacy that Barça have been unable to overturn.
It speaks to Barcelona’s recent form between these two teams that the gap has finally been closed. Since the 2008/09 season, Los Cules have managed 17 wins to Madrid’s 10, making this not only one of the biggest, but also one of the most tightly-contested rivalries in the world.
Rangers vs Celtic
Rangers wins: 160, Celtic wins: 156, Draws: 99
Not only is this one of the oldest rivalries in football, and one of its fiercest, but it also turns out to be one of the closest too.
After 415 competitive games between the two sides, the Old Firm derby remains remarkably tight. When it comes down to matches between the two Glasgow giants, there’s only four games in it.
While Rangers have made a comeback to at least become competitive again at the top (over the last seven completed seasons, Celtic's average margin of victory at the top is a mere 19 points), their rivals' recent dominance – including 11 victories in the last 15 encounters – means that the Gers may be toppled soon enough.
Inter Milan vs Milan
Inter wins: 79, Milan wins: 76, Draws: 67
It may not be the Scudetto-deciding fixture as often as Inter vs Juventus (where the Turin side dominate) has been, or as fierce as Roma vs Lazio (where the Giallorossi come out well on top), but the Derby Della Madonnina is certainly one the most closely-contested.
Milan have the nod when it comes to trophies, with 49 to Inter’s 39, but the fact the two teams have the same number of Serie A titles (18) tells a different story: things are very close when the two play each other at their shared San Siro home, with Inter edging it by just three victories.
Boca Juniors vs River Plate
Boca Juniors wins: 88, River Plate wins: 82, Draws: 78
British fans were treated to a rare viewing of Argentina’s Superclasico when these two sides reached the Copa Libertadores final last year... eventually.
Ignoring the tribulations involved in getting the two matches played, that the two teams could only be separated by extra time in the second leg gave fans a taste of what they'd been missing. In 106 years of meetings between the Buenos Aires rivals, Boca have a slender six-game advantage – although FFT imagines they would have happily traded that for victory at the Bernabeu back in December.
Newcastle vs Sunderland
Newcastle wins: 53, Sunderland wins: 53*, Draws: 50
This isn't the biggest rivalry for neutrals in England – neither side has won the league since 1936 – but no one doubts the police horse-punching passion of a Tyne-Wear derby.
But when it comes to head-to-heads, nothing else gets close to the... well, closeness.
Both teams have 53 wins over the other, while 50 draws in this fixture also point to just how difficult it is to separate these two clubs when they clash. Sunderland’s six wins without reply between 2013 and 2015 helped balance things out, and it remains the longest winning stretch for either side.
Taking it down to goal difference, Sunderland come out on top, with 232 goals to the Magpies’ 224.
*One note of controversy: some Mackems may now claim they edge this derby, following a 4-0 win in the Checkatrade Trophy last month. However, given that the side their first team played was Newcastle’s under-21s, FFT isn’t having any of it.
And five that are unexpectedly one-sided…
Fenerbahce vs Galatasaray
Fenerbahce wins: 103, Galatasaray wins: 81, Draws: 85
When Graeme Souness planted a Galatasaray flag in Fenerbahce’s centre-circle in 1996, it wasn't simply because his team were celebrating a cup final victory at their rivals' ground. It was also because the win was so unexpected (not to mention retaliation for a Fenerbahce director who called Souey "a cripple" following his heart surgery).
Galatasaray may have the most Super Lig titles – 21 to Fenerbahce’s 19 – but when it comes to the Eternal Rivalry match records, they’re unlikely to catch up any time soon. Their Istanbul rivals have a full 22 wins over them, and Galatasaray victories even trail the number of draws in this fixture.
With Fenerbahce surprisingly staving off relegation this season, it might even be a while before Galatasaray can start sorting that record out. Although they probably won’t mind too much...
Ajax vs Feyenoord
Ajax wins: 85, Feyenoord wins: 59, Draws: 48
The Netherlands’ Klassieker will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2021, during which time it's showcased some fine players – not least Johan Cruyff, who appeared on both sides of this rivalry.
Celebrated as it is, though, Ajax have a dominant lead over Feyenoord that stretches to 26 wins, and the less intense Topper games between Ajax and PSV Eindhoven are more evenly split (Ajax’s lead there is a mere 12 wins).
While Ajax sit 13 points above Feyenoord in the Eredivisie this season, the latter will be enjoying the most recent league meeting for a while: they stuffed their rivals 6-2 in January.
Manchester United vs Liverpool
Manchester United wins: 80, Liverpool wins: 66, Draws: 56
Last weekend’s goalless stalemate at Old Trafford may not have been a classic but, somewhat surprisingly, it was closer than the history of this tie would suggest.
England's two most successful sides first met in 1894, when Liverpool stuck two past the green-and-yellow of Newton Heath without reply.
Since then, and despite Liverpool’s period of domestic dominance during the 1970s and ‘80s, it's the side from down the M62 who have the bragging rights. With a lead of 14 victories, it'll be a while before Liverpool have a chance to correct that.
Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund
Bayern Munich wins: 56, Borussia Dortmund wins: 30, Draws: 33
In some ways, Bayern’s supremacy here comes as little surprise: the club derided as 'FC Hollywood' are the pre-eminent side in Germany, and have deeper pockets than a jolly giant in a trench coat.
However, Dortmund’s ability to upset the natural order is well established too, with five Bundesliga titles in the last 25 years – second only to Bayern, who have 15. Perhaps the last few seasons, in which BVB have finished second three times and lead the title challenge this year, has coloured how close we expect Der Klassiker to be.
Olympiakos vs Panathinaikos
Olympiacos wins: 80, Panathinaikos wins: 50, Draws: 68
The Derby of Eternal Enemies actually had its first fixture in 1927 – and it might have to go on for a long time yet for Panathinaikos to catch up with their Athens neighbours.
The Red-and-Whites have an enormous lead between the two, and are more likely to extend it than lose ground here.
In the last 20 years, Olympiakos have racked up a further 17 titles, while Panathinaikos have added just two. It's around this period that Olympiakos extended their head-to-head lead over the Greens: between the 1995/96 and 2005/06 seasons, they remained unbeaten at the Karaiskakis Stadium against their rivals, while Panathinaikos only managed three wins on home turf.