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Top 25 Intense Team Rivalries in Club Soccer

Hard fought competition between two teams inevitably brings out anger, frustration and disdain for your opponent. Over the years this seems to be more evident between certain teams, and this is true o

Hard fought competition between two teams inevitably brings out anger, frustration and disdain for your opponent. Over the years this seems to be more evident between certain teams, and this is true of all sports around the world. It is inevitable that rivalries form between teams, and this is a massive factor for what makes sport enjoyed by people all around the globe. Even those with little interest in a sport will tune in to watch a big rivalry match, as these become an event that is bigger than a game between two teams. The atmosphere at these games palpable, with the lead up to the game creating a mixture of nerves, excitement and anticipation for the players, staff and of course the fans, who play a huge role in rivalry matches.

Sometimes these rivalries are deep rooted into the history of a city or region, creating a divide between the population of these areas. These derby games are particularly important for the fans, as the winner will get bragging rights and claim the city theirs until the next game rolls around. Many modern day derby games require extra security and police presence, as you will often see tempers boil over in the stands and there is unfortunately a history of violence with many of these fierce rivalries. It is not always geographical proximity that creates tantalising rivalries between teams however; they can sometimes be a result of similar levels of success over the years. In some cases you will even find rivalries between teams that have stemmed from one particular game or event, where confrontation between the players has not been forgiven and revenge is sought after each time they face off.

Fortunately for the fans, the media frenzy and fan excitement of rivalry games will impact what happens on the pitch. The tension can have an impact on the players, with nerves and sudden rushes of adrenaline seeing them make questionable decisions. This means that often a rivalry game will be full of everything that makes football so enjoyable; goals, penalties, red cards, late drama, scuffles and two teams giving everything they have to put one over their bitter rival.

Here are 25 of the oldest, greatest and most venomous rivalries in club soccer.

25 CSKA Moskva v Spartak Moskva (Main Moscow Derby)

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There are five clubs in Moscow competing for bragging rights, but it is CSKA and Spartak that are engaged in the most ferocious rivalry. Their hatred for one another has political factors that date back to the 1920’s, where the club that would become CSKA was under a strong grasp by the communist government. Spartak was just emerging as a team free from politics, making them the club of the people. This independence gained them a large following, and these identities remain attached to both clubs. They have shared mixed fortunes over the years, and this has added fuel to the fire which makes their rivalry the greatest in Russia and a hugely important one in world soccer.

24 Manchester United v Manchester City (The Manchester Derby)

(AP Photo/Jon Super)

This is an old rivalry that has reignited in recent years, mainly due to Man City’s takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group, as this allowed them to afford a squad that could challenge any in the world. Since then, there have been a number of incredible derby matches, as well as an entire season where the two battled for the title. City managed to snatch the title from United with an unforgettable stoppage time goal on the last day of the 2011-12 season, stunning the entire world. City have been dubbed “the noisy neighbours”, and in the last few years have become the most dominant team in Manchester. This rivalry is now one of the most intriguing in the world and one that holds huge importance for both teams and their supporters.

23 Persepolis v Esteghlal (The Tehran Derby)

via abieteh.com

Perhaps not the best known rivalry, but it is one of the largest and most intense rivalries in Asia and the Middle East. This rivalry is between the two biggest teams in Iran, with their first meeting dating back to 1968. Nowadays when derby day comes round it engages and divides the entire nation, resulting in a hugely passionate affair that makes it the greatest sporting event in Iran. As with many derby games, sometimes passion takes over and violence will emerge, and there is also a history of death threats being made to officials by fans who are convinced of match fixing.

22 Liverpool v Everton (The Merseyside Derby)

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There is a misconception that this rivalry is a friendly one, and while it may not produce violent scenes like a number of others, it is still a fierce rivalry and one of the best fixtures in the Premier League. A fall out over money between Everton and the owner of Anfield led to the birth of these teams, with their stadiums just a mile apart. You will find Merseyside families that are built up of blue and red supporters and allegiances will not destroy friendships, but each team is desperate to get one over on their neighbour. The two are evenly matched in modern times, making each encounter a tantalising, important and hard fought affair.

21 Penarol v Nacional (The Uruguayan Clasico)

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This rivalry sees the two most dominant teams in Uruguay at war for the title of the best team in Montevideo, and they have been locked in this battle since 1900 when Penarol were known as Central Uruguay Railway Cricket Club. This long standing rivalry is as alive as ever today, and there have been countless classic encounters between them. In one fixture in 1990, an incredible 22 red cards were shown, 11 for each team. This saw the game end in the 85th minute due to the rule of less than seven players. The bad blood between these teams was evident again in 2000, when nine players and one coach had to spend a month in jail after the game.

20 Schalke v Borussia Dortmund (The Ruhr Derby)

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The Ruhr derby is the biggest German rivalry by some distance, and one of the best rivalries in the world. The history of why these teams have a hatred between one another dates back to around 1900, with the emergence of a large number of football clubs in the heavily populated Ruhr district. Schalke proved to be the dominant team out of all of these, until Dortmund beat them to the Westphalia Championship in 1947. The rivalry was born and is still very much present within a culture that is deeply passionate about football. With a deep rooted historical and cultural divide, this remains one of the most intense rivalries around.

19 Al Ahly v Zamelek (The Cairo Derby)

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This rivalry is one which often sees violence and chaos overshadow what happens on the pitch, which is unfortunate as these teams are the most dominant in Egypt (this means they often meet in cup competitions as well as domestic fixtures). The hatred runs so deep that these matches now have to be played at neutral venues and foreign referees are used to avoid suspicion. Al Ahly was the first locally run Egyptian club, whilst Zamelek are considered to represent the occupying British and the middle class. This divide in class and nationalism remains today, which contributes to the often ugly scenes that break out during games.

18 West Ham v Millwall

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The West Ham rivalry with Millwall is the bloodiest in England, but different divisions stop these teams from facing one another regularly. Both teams were created by rival factory workers, making them rivals in business as well as football. The feud was taken to the next level with the inclusion of two rival gangster families, the Krays who supported the Hammers, and the Richardsons who followed Millwall. The two clubs' firms have clashed heavily over the years with many injuries and even deaths being sustained. This rivalry often unfortunately provides a reminder of the dark times of hooliganism in English football.

17 Flamengo v Fluminense (Fla-Flu)

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There are four major clubs in Rio de Janeiro, but it is these two teams that see each other as the enemy. This is one of the oldest rivalries in football outside of England, with their first battle dating back to 1912. The origins of this rivalry go back slightly earlier however, when a group of nine players left Fluminense Football Club to start Clube de Regatas do Flamengo. With a history of over 100 years, this rivalry is one of the greatest sporting events around the world and simultaneously unites and divides the enormous city of Rio de Janeiro.

16 Benfica v Porto (O Classico)

Carlos Costa/DPI

The two cities of Lisbon and Porto are vastly different in their politics, culture and identity, creating a rift between the two. In addition to this, Benfica and Porto are also the two most successful Portuguese teams, which has created a bitter rivalry between these teams. This is arguably bigger than the Benfica rivalry with Sporting Lisbon, which is mainly based on the proximity of the teams, as opposed to deep lying differences in the two biggest cities in Portugal. This ensures that O Classico is always a fiery fixture and a great one for a neutral.

15 Wisla Krakow v Cracovia Krakow (The Holy War)

via footyfair.com

With just 500 metres separating these two stadiums, the Krakow derby is certainly an intense one. Poland is also host to a number of feared football firms, with Krakow being home to some of the most dangerous, including the Wisla Sharks and Anti-Wisla. This unfortunately sees a lot of violence, rioting and even murders in Krakow, and this is not limited to derby days as football related crime is rife. The games themselves are not much more peaceful, making this one of the most dangerous and violent rivalries in the modern game.

14 Tottenham v Arsenal (The North London Derby)

via eurosport.com

This rivalry dates back to 1913, when Woolwich Arsenal upped and moved to the North side of London, an area in which Tottenham Hotspur resided. A fierce rivalry was born that has seen many classic, high scoring derby matches over the years that have been filled with outstanding goals, penalties, red cards and late drama. The power has shifted to the red half of North London in the Premier League era, but in recent years the gap has closed and the two teams are often battling for an all important top four spot right until the last day of the season. Some of the more memorable derby matches in recent times have emerged from these North London clubs locking horns.

13 Newcastle v Sunderland (The Tyne-Wear Derby)

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This may not be the most glamorous of rivalries or showcase the best football, but it is certainly the fiercest rivalry in the Premier League. The two cities are isolated together in the North East, inevitably creating competition between the two. Off the pitch, they have a long history of disdain for one another, including political differences, battle for industry and tourism and different cultural identities. Unlike the majority of English rivalries, you will rarely find supporters befriending supporters of the other team. The on-pitch battles are often low scoring but full of malice, with plenty of altercations and red cards being handed out in recent years.

12 Ajax v Feyenoord (The Klassieker)

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This rivalry is a classic tale of two cities. One city has a history of culture and style, which can also be applied to the Ajax brand of football, who have been known for their attractive style. Rotterdam is a city with a blue collar identity, boasting a rugged, industrial background, which is home to Feyenoord. There is also a strong political difference between the two cities, creating passionate fans that are also clashing for reasons outside of football. This has unfortunately marred many games between these two rivals that could not be more different from one another.

11 Internazionale v Juventus (Derby d’Italia)

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This rivalry boils down to these two legendary teams enjoying similar levels of success over the years, and this is now seen as a battle to be the best team in all of Italy. The tantalising derby name was coined by Italian journalist Gianna Brera in 1967, and it often lives up to expectations. It may not have the added spice of being two teams from one city, but this rivalry remains one of the most exciting and intense ones to follow. There have been a number of high profile, controversial moments, with some of these moments even entering political debates due to Milan and Turin’s often opposing views.

10 Corinthians v Palmeiras (Derby Paulista)

via jcnet.com

There are a number of fierce rivalries in Brazil, mainly due to the majority of teams coming from just four cities. The Sao Paulo rivalry between Corinthians and Palmeiras is one of the oldest and all time greats, with a number of memorable matches which often result in clashes between passionate fans. These teams have been battling for Sao Paulo for nearly 100 years, with the two teams facing off well over 300 times, with each meeting bringing great drama and spice to Brazil’s biggest city.

9 A.C Milan v Internazionale (Derby Della Madonnina)

REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

The Milan rivalry sees a city split into two, the Nerazzurri and the Rossoneri. Despite this split, both teams share the legendary San Siro stadium, making their rivalry one of the most famous in world soccer. The battle for Milan is mainly about pride. Traditionally, A.C. Milan’s fans have been known to be left wing and of working class population, while Inter fans are sometimes considered to be the right wing, wealthier Milanese population. Both teams have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success over the years, with both claiming the title of Champions of Europe in recent times.

8 Manchester United v Liverpool (North West Derby)

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This remains one of the greatest soccer rivalries of all time as these are the two most decorated teams in England. There are a number of great derbies in the Premier League, but none quite like the one between United and Liverpool, who have been engaged in battle for nearly 50 years. Manchester United have been the dominant team since the mid 90’s, but this rivalry is not limited to the pitch. Manchester became the economic power in this region of England after the Ship Canal was built, taking many jobs away from those in Liverpool. The two have since been battling to become the major power in the North West, and each city’s team play a key role in this, which often impacts what happens on the pitch in what is always a classic game.

7 Olympiakos v Panathinaikos (Derby of Eternal Enemies)

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You can understand why a fan, player or even manager would have some pre game jitters going into a game between these two eternal enemies. This is one of the fiercest rivalries of all time, and the scenes at these games are often anarchic yet fascinating. Hundreds of flares ensure that the game is played under a surreal cloud of coloured smoke, but there has often been fighting, riots and even petrol bombs and stabbings that have marred this Athens rivalry. Panathinaikos manager Yannies Anastasiou was left sprawled in the turf clutching his face the last time these teams met, after being hit with an object thrown from the crowd.

6 Partizan Belgrade v Red Star Belgrade (Eternal Derby of Serbia)

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The atmosphere in this derby is unlike any other, and the game will often be played under smoke from the thousands of flares and fireworks which are smuggled into the game. The sound is deafening and tensions run high, all due to these two teams forming after World War 2 in the Serbian capital. The atmosphere and incredible fan support can often detract from what is happening on the pitch, and there have been a number of corruption allegations over the years which only adds fuel to the fire for these two teams locked in an eternal battle with one another.

5 Roma v Lazio (Derby Della Capitale)

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This notorious rivalry dates back to 1927 and the formation of AS Roma, where three teams came together so that Rome could have one team to challenge the top teams in the league. Lazio refused to be a part of this formation, and thus a divide in the Capital was born. Lazio was seen as the outsiders, but to them they were the original Rome team. This has created a tension between the two sides which shows no sign of relenting, and this fixture has been rife with riots, violence, fire, injuries and even death. Despite some of the unpleasant incidents that have occurred in this territorial battle, it remains an incredible and absorbing rivalry in the Italian capital.

4 Fenerbahce v Galatasaray (Intercontinental Derby)

UGUR CAN ISTANBUL/DHA

The physical divide between these two teams, which are in the same city, represents just how much they hate one another. Despite both being in Istanbul, the two clubs are separated by a body of water and they are even in two different continents. The Turkish fans certainly love football and their teams, which means that when these two face it is one of the most passionate and intense events you will see in sport. Graeme Souness got caught up in all the excitement when his Galatasary team beat Fenerbahce in the Turkish Cup, as he planted an enormous flag in the centre of the Fenerbahce pitch. Souness managed a quick escape, but this fixture will frequently result in utter chaos.

3 Barcelona v Real Madrid (El Classico)

via theguardian.com

When these two face off, it is watched by millions around the globe. Not only is this a fierce rivalry of the capitals of Spain and Catalonia, but it is also a match that always features the best global talent for two of the most successful teams of all time, taking place in two of the most iconic stadiums in the world. On a surface level this gives El Classico a glamorous side, but underneath it a war between two bitter rivals. The football on the pitch is often breathtaking and a fantastic advert for football, but this fixture is also about a battle for independence, language and identity that has lasted centuries. Luis Figo learnt the disdain these fans have for one another after switching allegiances, as this saw Barcelona fans throw a pig’s head at him on his return to the Nou Camp.

2 Celtic v Rangers (The Old Firm Derby)

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These two teams do not face off too often nowadays, which many claim is a good thing due to their complex history. The rivalry is about more than geographical closeness and similar success; it has a religious undercurrent with Celtic being associated as a Catholic club whilst Rangers are linked with Protestants. One city with two teams that despise one another this much makes derby day an enormous spectacle, and certainly not your normal match for players or fans. The police have to be used heavily for this fixture, due to a long history of violence and sectarian chants. It has been over two years since the last Old Firm derby, but the two have been drawn against one another in the Scottish League Cup semis, which is sure to be one of the biggest games of the season.

1 Boca Juniors v River Plate (El Superclasico)

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There is no quicker way to divide a group of people in Argentina than asking them who they support. When these two face off it is practically a national event, with a staggering 70% of supporters following one of these two clubs. Both teams emerged from Buenos Aires, with River Plate moving to the wealthier neighbourhood of Nunez in 1938. This adds wealth and class to the local rivalry, which makes games between the two full of colour, noise, passion, emotion and unfortunately sometimes violence. El Superclasico is a unique sporting event that has an atmosphere like no other, with many stating that it is one of the all time great sporting events.

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Top 25 Intense Team Rivalries in Club Soccer