The top five Derbies in world football

When it comes to football, there is nothing better than a derby encounter with your biggest rival. The fans are more passionate on the day, the football is of the highest standard and the form book is flung out the window like a used burger wrapper on the motorway.

If your team wins on the day, it makes for a joyous weekend and the opportunity to gloat in front of rival fans to no end. However, if your team suffers the sour taste of defeat, it can make for a long and arduous few weeks or even months.

But that is all part and parcel of the game. You take the highs with the lows and while succumbing to defeat against your noisy neighbour is the lowest, shoving a defeat down their throat can be the almightiest of highs.

Anyway, without further adieu and in no particular order, below are the top five derbies in world football.

Derby della Capitale – Lazio vs AS Roma

Widely perceived to be one of the game’s biggest encounters in world football, the Derby della Capitale, or the Rome Derby, focuses on Italy’s two capital Serie A sides – AS Roma and Lazio. Comfortably eclipsing the Derby della Madonnina and the Derby della Mole – the Milan and Turn Derby, respectively – it is one game that grasps the imagination of the footballing world.

Describing the game as a fiery encounter would be an understatement to the Rome Derby. A 3-2 win for Lazio in the recent meeting between the two sides saw two reds shown for Daniele De Rossi and Stefano Mauri, of Roma and Lazio respectively, in the driving rain as the Biancocelesti emerged victorious on the day.

Rome locals claim the derby is ‘more than just a game’, further heightening the tension between the two teams. Like any derby, it isn’t an encounter that passes by without incident – in 1979, Lazio fan Vincenzo Paparelli was hit in the eye with a flare, becoming the first fatality in Italian football between the two teams, while in 2004; the encounter was postponed, leading to battles between fans an police, culminating in 13 arrests and 170 officers injured.

The Superclasico – Boca Juniors vs River Plate

The most important derby in Argentine football, the Superclasico between Boca Juniors and River Plate is one that attracts millions of viewers each and every year. Statistics suggest that the two teams commandeer more than 70% of all Argentine football fans, so one can only envision the encounter being a highly charged affair.

The two teams, like a majority of derbies, derive their rivalries from the class difference, with Boca referred to as the working class club due to the origins of Los Xeneizes, while River have adopted the nickname of Los Millonarios as a result of their supposedly upper-class support base, having moved to the district of Nunez in the north of Buenos Aires in 1925.

However, like the Derby della Capitale, a derby passing without incident is a rarity and in June 1968, the worst in Argentinean football history. Following an encounter between the two sides at El Monumental, the home of River, 71 fans were killed and 150 injured following a crush at one of the gates, with the average age of victims just 19.

Nevertheless, the Superclasico is widely regarded as one of the most important derbies in world football, with the Observer in 2004 listing the derby at the top of the ’50 sporting things you must do before you die’.

El Clasico – Real Madrid vs Barcelona

El Clasico was always going to earn a place on the list, such is the importance of the fixture. Real Madrid – Barcelona, be it at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu or the Camp Nou, is one game that attracts the viewing figures from football fans across the world, with hundreds of millions often tuning in to view the encounter.

The rivalry stems back from the time of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship between 1939 and his death in 1975, with Barcelona adopting a reputation as a symbol of Catalan pride, as opposed to the centralising tendencies of Madrid, with many of those in Barcelona differing from the strong fascist-like regime under Franco.

Widely regarded as the two top teams in Spain, El Clasico is always a hard fought contest between both sides, with the encounter regularly determining the victors of La Liga that year. Many a player has often crossed the great divide between the two teams, with Bernd Schuster, Michael Laudrup and, most controversially, Luis Figo all swapping Barcelona for Real over the last 25 years.

Recently, Real have been the more dominant of the two sides, picking up the Primera Division crown last season, while Cristiano Ronaldo in October became the first player to score in six consecutive Clasico’s.

The Old Firm Derby – Rangers vs Celtic

Scotland’s two most successful teams having won 97 league trophies between them, the encounter between Rangers and Celtic is a hotly contested affair, be it in the SPL or in the domestic cups. The rivalry itself, of course being centred around the location in Glasgow, is infused with a series of complex disputes, focusing on religion, Northern Ireland-related politics or social ideology.

Back in 1980, fans of both sides fought on the pitch following Celtic’s 1-0 win over Rangers in the Scottish Cup Final and, to this day, remains one of the worst pitch invasions ever reported and played a part in alcohol being banned from football grounds in Scotland.

Following a summer of discontent, however, the chances of the two teams meeting in the foreseeable future have somewhat diminished. Rangers financial problems caught up with them over the summer and it saw the Glasgow giants relegated to the third division. Nevertheless, should the two teams next year, it’ll signal the 125th anniversary of the first contested Old Firm Derby.

Le Classique – PSG vs Marseille

Also known as the Derby de France or Le Classico, the hotly contested encounter between Paris St. Germain and Marseille is modelled on El Clasico. Shot to prominence in 1980’s, with Canal+ and Bernard Tapie promoting confrontations between the two sides, made all the more predominant by the white-got atmosphere both sets of fans generate.

The match is often referred to as the North vs the South due to the geographical divide between both teams and while it may not be the oldest in France; it is often the fiercest with fixture dividing loyalties right across the country.

Like any derby, it is a rarity for the encounter to pass by without incident, with both sets of fans often coming to blows. Numerous events have occurred since 1995 following clashes between PSG and Marseille, including buses set on fire, countless arrests, a Marseille supporter in 2000 being left paralysed having been struck by a seat, less than 18 months later a 16-year-old fan was left half decapitated after his bus slammed into a bridge abutment. The encounter between the two sides earlier this year ended 2-2.