Every club has their derby day and some have more than one. Whatever the league, wherever the country, the fixture announcement leads to fans across the world scouring the dates to find out when their side clashes with their eternal rivals. Whether it’s titles or bragging rights on the line, the atmosphere is always electric.
Here at Top Eleven, we love a good derby and it was a hard task picking out the very best of them. We decided to have a rule- only one derby from a single nation and we scoured the world for the very best. If you’re dreaming of flying across the globe to watch the biggest games in world football, then these should definitely be in your list.
We’re running down the best derbies in world football and, of course, there is unfortunately some exclusions. Don’t see your favourite derby here? Let us know in the comments!
Barcelona v Real Madrid: Spain
El Clasico is one of the most watched football matches world-wide for good reason. With both sides boasting the very best players in the world and always fighting for honours. However, the rivalry extends far deeper than on-field success. Los Blancos represent Spanish nationalism whilst Barcelona represent Catalonia- and were staunchly against the regime of Francisco Franco. Politically, the clash of ideals is still often in the news and a player crossing the divide often leads to unsavoury scenes- with one of the most memorable seeing Luis Figo have a severed pigs head thrown at him by Barcelona fans following his move to Real Madrid.
Boca Juniors v River Plate: Argentina
Arguably the biggest derby in the world, Superclasico sees the two Buenos Aires side’s clash and often contend from honours. With the pair of clubs boasting 70% of Argentine football fans between them, on match-day the entire South American nation has their eyes fixed on the capital. Divided by class, their have been many violent scenes taking place at the games, not least of which being the Puerta 12 tragedy in 1968 when 71 fans were killed and 150 were injured after a crush at a gate- and the cause of the tragedy is still disputed to this day.
Rangers v Celtic: Scotland
The Old Firm derby is one of the stand-out fixtures in the British football calendar, with both Glasgow clubs dominating success in Scottish football. With a religious background, the divide between protestant and catholic supporters splits the club. Whilst that divide has been lessened in the modern era, the rivalry is still at his forefront and the 2016/17 season brings the return of the fixture to the top-flight, following Rangers’ liquidation in 2012 and subsequent restart in the fourth division of the Scottish football pyramid.
Red Star v Partizan Belgrade: Serbia
The Eternal Derby is one of the most fierce in eastern Europe, with a mere 400m separating the stadiums of both clubs. The two most popular and successful clubs in the former Yugoslav nation were both formed by former sections of the army, which begun the rivalry between the two. With the highest attendance of the fixture standing at a staggering 108k, the fixture earns it’s place on the list despite the two sides’ regular absence from elite European competitions.
Fenerbache v Galatasaray: Turkey
Known as the Kıtalararası Derbi, Fenerbache v Galatasaray is the biggest game in Turkish football. Both clubs come from opposing sides of Istanbul, with one based in Europe and the other in Asia, which is a large part of the rivalry. Having existed for over a century, this historic derby attracts world-wide attention every year. Unfortunately, incidents of violence and racism are commonplace.
Borussia Dortmund v Schalke: Germany
The Revierderby is perhaps one of the most unique in world football. Both clubs have a strong hatred for each other but also pride themselves on their local heritage and the Ruhr region. The two have celebrated each other’s success at times in Europe and domestically, although you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise on match-day. The creation of the Bundesliga in 1963 intensified the fixture and it’s now one of the biggest derbies in European football.
Ajax v Feyenoord: Holland
Dutch football may not achieve the heights it once did but Ajax and Feyenoord both boast a strong history in European competitions and a rivalry that stems to the core of the country. De Klassieker sees Ajax of Amsterdam clash with neighbouring Rotterdam’s Feyenoord, with the rivalry between the two cities stemming deeper than just sports. In 2009, the two-clubs agreed to ban travelling supporters for five seasons following fan violence and the situation has been better since- although the hatred still runs through the veins of the supporters.
Olympiakos v Panathinaikos: Greece
Greek football may not stand-out as one of the most exciting in the world but the derby between Olympiakos and Panathinaikos certainly does. Known as the derby of eternal enemies, the intense fixture sees the nation’s two biggest clubs, both from Athens, clash. The origins of the derby can be traced back to cultural, regional and social differences, and extends to a wealth of sports. In football the occasion often boils over, with clashes on-and-off the field.
Roma v Lazio: Italy
The derby della Capitale sees Rome-based duo Roma and Lazio clash at their shared ground, the Stadio Olimpico. It’s seen as the most fierce derby in Italian football, ahead of the clashes in both Milan and Turin. Both clubs have a long history and the rivalry was born early on, when Lazio rejected an invitation from facist dictator Mussolini to create a ‘super-club’ in the region that could counter the dominance of the northern teams in Italy. These days, the clubs often struggle to cope with Juventus’ dominance but it hasn’t effected the importance of this tie to the fans.
Manchester United v Liverpool: England
The biggest clash in English football is undoubtably Manchester United v Liverpool, with the two North-West clubs boasting a proud history. Liverpool dominated the majority of the 1900’s until Sir Alex Ferguson took charge in 1992, sparking a United dominance in domestic football. The rivalry originates from the industrial revolution and whilst both sides have endured disappointing spells in recent years, the fixture is still fiercely contested.
Fluminense v Flamengo: Brazil
The Fla-Fla derby sees the two-sides from Rio de Janeiro go toe-to-toe, in a rivalry that originated in 1911 when dissatisfied Fluminense players left the club to form a football department at Flamengo. Since then, the two Brazilian sides have enjoyed a wealth of honours between them and boast the world-record attendance for a football match, with a staggering 194,603 fans watching a 0-0 draw in 1963.