Biggest Football Derbies: Bitter Rivalries in Soccer

Rivalries fueled some of the best soccer matches ever. The fiercer the rivalry, the more interesting the match-up is. This is especially true in soccer, where passionate fans and local pride are at stake every time their team steps onto the field.

There are such rivalries all around the world, but some are better known than others. Here are some of the biggest football derbies in the world that are always anticipated months in advance, and usually spell a busy day for sports betting operators.

biggest football derbies

North West Derby (Liverpool vs. Manchester United)

The North West Derby, played by Manchester United and Liverpool, is the biggest football derby in England. These famous soccer clubs played their first game in 1894, and since then, their derby has become one of the most passionate football rivalries. The fact that the two clubs won 137 trophies in total speaks for itself.

Due to fierce competition, tensions usually run high between the fans of these two teams, and physical altercations aren’t uncommon. Some players even fuelled the rivalry by voicing their hatred toward the other team in the past.

North London Derby (Arsenal vs. Tottenham)

Although London is home to many football clubs and the point of origin for much of the sport’s jargon, including Chelsea and Crystal Palace, the title of the biggest London football derby goes to Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

At first, these soccer clubs played “friendly” matches, but that ended when Arsenal, founded in South London, moved to Tottenham’s neighborhood in North London in 1913. Since then, this local derby has become one of the most heated derbies in the world.

So far, the rivals have played 166 games, with Arsenal winning 69 and Tottenham 51. Moreover, Arsenal won 13 championships, as opposed to Tottenham’s two.

Derby Della Madonnina (Inter vs. Milan)

The local soccer match between Inter and Milan (Internazionale and AC) is probably the biggest football derby in Italy. These Milan football clubs are local rivals who share the same stadium – San Siro. In the beginning, the wealthier upper class supported Inter, while the working class and the poorer population of Milan cheered for AC.

Nowadays, both clubs have a wide range of supporters, and there are some curious football facts related to them. Derby di Milano is one of the most anticipated matches in Europe, making it one of the most popular football derbies overall. The fans call it Derby Della Madonnina in honor of the statue of the Virgin Mary on top of the Milan Cathedral, which is the city’s symbol.

Inter and AC Milan have played 273 derby games so far, with AC Milan being slightly more successful with 106 wins compared to Inter’s 96. The two clubs won 38 Serie A titles in total and are tied at 19 wins each, with Juventus being the only club that won more – an impressive 36.

Derby Della Capitale (Roma vs. Lazio)

Roma and Lazio are two teams from the Italian capital of Rome whose rivalry ranks their matches among the world’s fiercest and biggest football derbies. The games often involved racist chants and flags, and even fascist symbols in the past.

The rivalry between the two clubs began in 1927, when Mussolini formed Roma by merging three smaller teams to challenge the successful teams from northern Italy. Lazio was the only one to refuse the merger.

Although not as successful as northern Italian clubs (Lazio won three and Roma won two Serie A titles), the Rome derby is still a highly anticipated spectacle.

Intercontinental Derby (Fenerbahce vs. Galatasaray)

Fenerbahce and Galatasaray are the two most successful Turkish soccer clubs, with dozens of national titles won by each. Their rivalry produced not only some of the greatest derbies ever played but also the loudest. In 2011, Turk Telekom Stadium recorded some of the highest noise levels since the invention of football.

The name of these two clubs’ derby relates to the fact that the teams are located on opposite sides of the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul. Fenerbahce was founded on the Asian and Galatasaray on the European side.

A head-to-head comparison reveals that Fenerbahce is more successful than Galatasaray. It won 139 times, as opposed to Galatasaray’s 116 wins. The two most successful clubs in Turkey also played 110 draws.

Manchester Derby (Manchester United vs. Manchester City)

The Manchester Derby, played between Manchester United and Manchester City, is also a noteworthy contest in derby history. The former is one of the most successful English teams, while the latter is among the richest soccer clubs today.

From their first match in 1881 until 1970, Manchester United and Manchester City mainly played “friendly” games. But, then, an incident where a United player broke a City player’s leg, which gave rise to fierce animosity among the players and fans.

Old Firm Derby (Rangers vs. Celtic)

The rivalry between Celtic and Rangers, the two highly successful clubs in Scottish football, is fueled by religion. Both teams are from Glasgow, and while the former are proud Catholics, the latter are Protestants. Their rivalry has created the biggest football derby in Scotland.

The Old Firm Derby is also one of the most notorious in terms of fan violence. In 1927, a fight between the two teams’ supporters involved around 2,000 participants. The tensions have lessened greatly since then, although there is still a lot of dislike between the two clubs’ fans.

Rangers have won 55 championship titles so far, making it the most successful Scottish club. Celtic is close behind, with 52 titles.

Superclassico (Boca Juniors vs. River Plate)

Boca Juniors vs. River Plate matches are also among the greatest football derbies in the world due to their intensity. The rivalry has its roots in class differences, with the working class supporting Boca Juniors and the upper class siding with River Plate.

While the atmosphere of the matches is exceptional, the fans are “sworn enemies,” and tensions usually run high. The fact that these are the most successful Argentine teams has only made the rivalry between the two clubs fiercer.

Boca Juniors currently has the lead, with a total of 89 wins compared to River Plate’s 78.

El Clásico (Real Madrid vs. Barcelona)

If we’re talking about the biggest derby in the world, then El Clásico, played between Real Madrid and Barcelona, is the top candidate for this title. Nationalism is the biggest driving force in this rivalry, with Real Madrid fans representing Spanish nationalism and Barcelona fans being Catalan nationalists.

Many televisions broadcast the derby worldwide, and both football clubs strive to bring in the best players during transfers. For this and many other reasons, the biggest football derby in Spain is among the most anticipated sporting events worldwide.

Of course, there’s no denying that one of the biggest rivalries in football produced quite a stir when Louis Figo transferred from Barcelona to Real Madrid in the year 2000. Due to the anger it caused among Barcelona fans, no direct transfers between the teams have occurred since then.

In terms of matches played, the result is almost a tie. Real Madrid won 100 games, as opposed to Barcelona’s 96 wins, and the number of draws currently sits at 52. Moreover, Real Madrid has won 35 Spanish football championships, while FC Barcelona has only won 26 times so far.

Eternal Derby (Partizan vs. Red Star Belgrade)

The rivalry between the two Belgrade football clubs, Red Star and Partizan, is among the youngest on our list, but games between these teams are still among the top football derby matches in Europe. Both soccer clubs were founded in the same year, 1945, when the Yugoslav capital was liberated from Nazi occupation.

While the atmosphere accompanying the matches is amazing, the rivalry between Red Star and Partizan became notorious due to their fans. Every Eternal derby requires heavy security measures due to the animosity between the clubs’ fans, and physical altercations occur frequently.

Still, the soccer games between the two clubs are often spectacular and highly anticipated.

Other Famous Derbies Throughout the World

You can enjoy watching many other great soccer derbies all over the world, and some honorable mentions among them are:

Der Klassiker (Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund)

Competition between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund got heated in the 1990s, when Borussia rose and started to challenge Bayern’s hegemony in German football. Since then, the Dortmund club has won five Bundesliga titles, while Bayern remains way ahead with 31 championship titles in total. Der Klassiker is widely considered the greatest derby in Germany.

Derby of Eternal Enemies (Panathinaikos vs. Olympiacos)

The matches between Athens’s Panathinaikos and Piraeus’s Olympiacos tend to involve a lot of fights between the clubs’ supporters. Their rivalry is class-based and lies in the fact that the members of the upper class supported Panathinaikos while workers from Athens’s port city of Piraeus cheered for Olympiacos in the past.

Still, the games played between these two clubs are noteworthy since they are the most successful Greek teams by far, with Olympiacos winning 47 championships and Panathinaikos 20.

Final Words

Watching derbies is always a grand experience. The atmosphere of each derby is unique, and the level of play is often very high, regardless of whether you visit some of the top South American or European football derbies.

Belligerent supporters are, unfortunately, an ever-present problem, but security measures are always in place to prevent the situation from escalating beyond control.

So, if you have a chance to see a derby live, consider taking the opportunity – you’d be in for an extremely memorable experience! In the meantime, you might wish to learn some cool facts about soccer.


Which is the biggest derby in football?

The biggest football derby in the world is the El Clásico between Real Madrid and Barcelona. This match is highly anticipated every year by fans all over the world.

What are the biggest derbies in English football?

English football’s biggest derbies are Manchester, North West, and North London derbies, among others. These matches are always highly anticipated and fiercely contested.

Which is the most watched derby in the world?

While El Clásico is one of the biggest football derbies in the world, the record for highest attendance was set at the Fla-Flu derby in 1963 at a game between the Brazilian clubs Flamengo and Fluminense, which had a total of 194,603 spectators.