The biggest derbies in world football

Real Madrid vs Barcelona
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Football might only be a game, but at the same time... it's war.

We have picked out the biggest derbies from around the world, selecting the special fixtures that arouse passion, intensity and no shortage of-ill feeling. From Buenos Aires to the Basque Country, these are the fiercest rivalries in the sport.  

32. Newell's Old Boys vs Rosario Central

Newell's Old Boys vs Rosario Central

Newell's Old Boys vs Rosario Central (Image credit: Getty Images)

It might not be the biggest rivalry in Argentina, but there's no love lost between Newell’s Old Boys and Rosario Central.

The enmity allegedly dates back to an episode where Rosario turned down an offer from Newell’s to play a friendly for a leprosy charity, earning themselves the nickname los Canallas - the ‘Scoundrels’. 

31. East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan 

East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan

East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan (Image credit: Getty Images)

Cricket-mad India is not exactly a footballing hotbed, with the notable exception of Kolkata in the east. A game between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in 1997 drew a crowd of 131,781, making it the country’s best-attended sporting event of all time.

The two clubs were once one, but East Bengal split from Mohun Bagan in 1920.

30. Newcastle United vs Sunderland

Newcastle United vs Sunderland

Newcastle United vs Sunderland (Image credit: Getty Images)

In the 1600s Newcastle and Sunderland were on opposing sides of the English Civil War, the former supporting Charles I and the latter throwing its weight behind Oliver Cromwell. They have agreed on little else since.

The head-to-head record is remarkably even, with both clubs having enjoyed memorable derby-day victories over the arch-enemy from 12 miles away.

29. Raja Casablanca vs Wydad Casablanca

Raja Casablanca vs Wydad Casablanca

Raja Casablanca vs Wydad Casablanca (Image credit: Getty Images)

If you are from Casablanca, you are either Raja or Wydad. Morocco’s largest city has hosted this ferocious derby since the mid-1950s.

Even the monarchy isn't able to escape the feud. King Mohammed V was a Wydad fan until his death in 1961, prompting cries of favouritism from the leftist Raja faithful.

28. Genoa vs Sampdoria

Genoa vs Sampdoria

Genoa vs Sampdoria (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Derby della Lanterna isn't Italy’s best-known rivalry, but it's arguably its most interesting. Genoa are the oldest club in the working-class city of the same name, while the 1946-founded Sampdoria are the flashy upstarts from the suburbs.

This fixture routinely produces some of the best fan choreographies you will see anywhere in the world.

27. Persepolis vs Esteghlal

Persepolis vs Esteghlal

Persepolis vs Esteghlal (Image credit: Getty Images)

Iran’s two most successful clubs share a stadium but not much else. Persepolis are still known as Tehran’s working-class team, whereas Esteghlal have traditionally drawn their support from the middle classes.

A red-hot atmosphere is guaranteed when these two clubs duke it out, with the Azadi Stadium often full hours before kick-off. 

26. Colo-Colo vs Universidad de Chile

Colo-Colo vs Universidad de Chile

Colo-Colo vs Universidad de Chile (Image credit: Getty Images)

It's always a special occasion whenever Colo-Colo renew hostilities with Universidad de Chile. The two biggest and most successful clubs in the Chilean game compete not only for bragging rights in Santiago but also for national titles.

The first ever meeting was in 1935, which means the centenary of this momentous fixture is approaching. 

25. Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates

Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates

Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates (Image credit: Getty Images)

The South African national team has long punched below its weight in continental competition given the country’s economic power and passion for football.

The best of the South African club game can be found when Kaizer Chiefs take on Orlando Pirates in the Soweto derby, one of the biggest rivalries outside Europe and South America.

24. Independiente vs Racing Club

Independiente vs Racing Club

Independiente vs Racing Club (Image credit: Getty Images)

The stadiums of Independiente and Racing Club are just 300 metres apart in Avellaneda, just outside the city of Buenos Aires. Two members of Argentina’s ‘big five’, these two sides enjoy nothing more than beating the mortal enemy.

Independiente and Racing have butted heads more than 200 times since the Avellaneda derby was born in 1907.

23. Southampton vs Portsmouth 

Southampton vs Portsmouth

Southampton vs Portsmouth (Image credit: Getty Images)

The rivalry between these two port cities began when Portsmouth became associated with the Royal Navy and Southampton generated links with the merchant navy. In south coast parlance, it's the Scummers (Southampton) versus the Skates (Portsmouth).

They do not play each other every season, but the mutual antagonism is deep-seated.

22. Real Sociedad vs Athletic Bilbao

Real Sociedad vs Athletic Bilbao

Real Sociedad vs Athletic Bilbao (Image credit: Getty Images)

As rivalries go, this one is on the friendly side. It's common to see supporters of Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao mingling together before, after and sometimes even during derby games.

But the rich history of this battle for supremacy in the Basque Country makes it worthy of inclusion: the two teams first met way back in 1909.

21. Corinthians vs Palmeiras

Corinthians vs Palmeiras

Corinthians vs Palmeiras (Image credit: Getty Images)

Brasilia is the political centre and Rio de Janeiro is the most well-known of the country’s many cities, but Sao Paulo is the economic capital of Brazil - and the most populous city outside Asia.

The Paulista derby is contested by Corinthians, with its working-class roots, and Palmeiras, a club founded by Sao Paulo’s Italian community. 

20. Chivas vs Club America

Chivas vs Club America

Chivas vs Club America (Image credit: Getty Images)

Chivas, or Club Deportivo Guadalajara to use the official name, and America are the most popular Mexican teams. Even fans who support other teams often have a preference for one or the other.

America are seen as the establishment club with an acceptance of foreign players. Meanwhile Chivas only field Mexican players and draw more followers from the working class.

19. Real Betis vs Sevilla

Real Betis vs Sevilla

Real Betis vs Sevilla (Image credit: Getty Images)

Real Betis are considered the working-class club of the Spanish city of Seville, with Sevilla having traditionally drawn their support from the more well-to-do members of society. 

Today, however, it’s common for families to be split between green-and-white and red-and-white. Seville is a football-mad place, so derby day is always special.

18. Partizan Belgrade vs Red Star Belgrade

Partizan Belgrade vs Red Star Belgrade

Partizan Belgrade vs Red Star Belgrade (Image credit: Getty Images)

Expect fireworks when Red Star face Partizan - and that's just in the stands. For a long time this game was a proxy for a political tussle between the interior ministry (Red Star) and the Yugoslav army (Partizan).

It remains one of the most political rivalries in the world, with far more than three points up for grabs on derby day.

17. Nacional vs Penarol

Nacional vs Penarol

Nacional vs Penarol (Image credit: Getty Images)

Montevideo rivals Nacional and Penarol first faced off in 1900, making this one of the oldest derbies outside Britain.

In the early years Penarol’s team was mostly made up of immigrants from England, prompting the creation of Nacional - as the name suggests, a club exclusively for Uruguayans. They are comfortably the most successful sides in the country.

16. Flamengo vs Fluminense

Flamengo vs Fluminense

Flamengo vs Fluminense (Image credit: Getty Images)

In 1963, an astonishing 194,603 fans packed into the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro to watch Flamengo and Fluminense do battle. It remains the world-record attendance for a domestic match.

In 1911, Flamengo were founded by 10 disgruntled Fluminense players who left the club after a row with the board. The rest is history.

15. Benfica vs Sporting CP

Benfica vs Sporting CP

Benfica vs Sporting CP (Image credit: Getty Images)

Porto are worthy on-field rivals for these two Lisbon-based outfits, but in the stands it is impossible to trump the ill-feeling between fans of Benfica and Sporting CP.

The touch paper was lit from day one: in the build-up to the first derby in 1907, eight Benfica players walked out on the club to sign for Sporting.

14. Olympiacos vs Panathinaikos

Olympiacos vs Panathinaikos

Olympiacos vs Panathinaikos (Image credit: Getty Images)

In Greece this fixture is known as the ‘derby of the eternal enemies’. Need we say more?

Representing central Athens, Panathinaikos were founded in 1908 as the team of the elite. Olympiacos, with their roots in the nearby port city of Piraeus, have long argued that they are the people’s club in the Greek capital.

13. Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur

Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur

Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur (Image credit: Getty Images)

The sheer strength of feeling involved in certain derbies often diminishes the on-field product, leading to cautious and nervy football. Conversely, the north London derby is usually hugely entertaining.

Arsenal’s move from south of the Thames to Highbury in 1913 gave birth to one of English football’s foremost grudge matches.

12. Ajax vs Feyenoord 

Ajax vs Feyenoord

Ajax vs Feyenoord (Image credit: Getty Images)

Amsterdam and Rotterdam are both cities in the Netherlands but that's where the similarities end. So while Ajax epitomise style and artistry, Feyenoord tend to value results above all else.

Ajax are the more successful, but Feyenoord always relish giving their rivals a bloody nose. Make no mistake, De Klassieker is one of the most significant rivalries in Europe. 

11. Gremio vs Internacional

Gremio vs Internacional

Gremio vs Internacional (Image credit: Getty Images)

The city of Porto Alegre in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul hosts two of Brazil’s biggest clubs, Gremio and Internacional. Before anything else, these sides aspire to regional supremacy.

Gremio were founded by German immigrants in 1903, while Inter were set up by the offspring of Italian immigrants six years later.

10. AC Milan vs Inter

AC Milan vs Inter

AC Milan vs Inter (Image credit: Getty Images)

Inter fans often say they would rather beat Juventus than AC Milan, but violence is relatively rare when the San Siro co-tenants lock horns.

This is undoubtedly one of club football’s greatest fixtures. The choreography in the stands is a sight to behold and the atmosphere is never less than electric.

9. Marseille vs Paris Saint-Germain

Marseille vs Paris Saint-Germain

Marseille vs Paris Saint-Germain (Image credit: Getty Images)

Marseille and Paris are two very different cities: a gritty, working-class port city versus the rich, bourgeois hub of political power.

A relatively new rivalry owing to PSG’s founding in 1970, Le Classique increased in ferocity from the mid-1980s onwards. The Parisians are more successful these days, but Marseille fans frequently remind them that they were France’s first European champions. 

8. Al Ahly vs Zamalek

Al Ahly vs Zamalek

Al Ahly vs Zamalek (Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the most chaotic cities on the planet, Cairo, comes to a standstill whenever Al Ahly take on Zamalek. 

A fanatical fixture, these two clubs were traditionally divided by politics: the republic-supporting nationalists of Al Ahly against the pro-royalist Zamalek. The atmosphere at the Cairo International Stadium on derby day is feverish.

7. Roma vs Lazio

Roma vs Lazio

Roma vs Lazio (Image credit: Getty Images)

Roma and Lazio have only won a handful of Serie A titles. The clubs from the capital have long had to watch on as Turin and Milan dominate.

That only adds to the animosity between them. On derby day, Roma fans congregate on the Curva Sud and Lazio fans take over the Curva Nord. The result is always something spectacular. 

6. Manchester United vs Liverpool 

Manchester United vs Liverpool

Manchester United vs Liverpool  (Image credit: Getty Images)

When Manchester United won their 19th league title in 2011 to become the most successful side in English football history, they fulfilled Alex Ferguson’s vow to knock Liverpool “off their perch”.

Manchester and Liverpool are long-term rivals economically, culturally and musically. But the intercity conflict is at its most fervent on the football field.

5. Borussia Dortmund vs Schalke

Borussia Dortmund vs Schalke

Borussia Dortmund vs Schalke (Image credit: Getty Images)

Bayern Munich might be the biggest club in Germany, but Borussia Dortmund reserve their strongest dislike for Schalke, their North Rhine-Westphalia neighbours.

Both clubs are proud of their industrial roots and they have more in common than either would like to admit. But the intensity of this rivalry sets it apart from anything else Germany has to offer.

4. Fenerbahce vs Galatasaray

Fenerbahce vs Galatasaray

Fenerbahce vs Galatasaray (Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the world’s great footballing cities, Istanbul is big enough to support more than 10 clubs in the top three divisions of the Turkish game.

The biggest match of all pits Fenerbahce, from the Asian half of the city, against the Europe-based Galatasaray. The Intercontinental Derby isn't one for the faint-hearted.

3. Real Madrid vs Barcelona

Real Madrid vs Barcelona

Real Madrid vs Barcelona (Image credit: Getty Images)

El Clasico is compulsory viewing not only in Spain but in virtually every country in the world. Meetings between Real Madrid and Barcelona are regularly watched by more than 700 million people.

The capital of Spain versus the foremost symbol of Catalan nationalism, this is a clash between two contrasting identities. Superstar players and managers add further intrigue.

2. Celtic vs Rangers

Celtic vs Rangers

Celtic vs Rangers (Image credit: Getty Images)

Dating back to 1888, the Old Firm is about much more than football. As well as the usual local bragging rights, religion (Catholic vs Protestant), national identity (Irish Scots vs British) and Northern Irish politics (Republican vs Loyalist) are all factors.

By far the most successful clubs in Scotland, Celtic and Rangers compete for silverware season after season.

1. River Plate vs Boca Juniors 

River Plate vs Boca Juniors

River Plate vs Boca Juniors (Image credit: Getty Images)

For passion, colour, atmosphere and deep-seated enmity, there's nothing quite like Argentina’s Superclasico.

Boca Juniors embrace their working-class, dockland beginnings, whereas River Plate have traditionally represented middle-class suburbia. That's an oversimplification these days, but Boca and River’s fight for supremacy in Buenos Aires and beyond makes this a rivalry like no other.

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