The Biggest Soccer Rivalries

22nd January 2020
You might know who the biggest rival teams in soccer are, but do you know why the rivalries exist?

Soccer is a competitive sport and teams give it everything they’ve got. So it’s no wonder that rivalries exist in soccer. In our post today, we want to focus on the classic rivalries and the stories behind them.

What are the most intense soccer rivalries?

You probably know the names already because they’re the best-known in the world. But, we want to explain what’s behind the animosity. Keep reading to learn about the biggest rivalries in soccer:

1. Real Madrid — Barcelona (Spain): soccer rivalries

Real Madrid and Barcelona are the two most popular teams in Spain. They’ve won the most national and international titles in addition to calling two of the biggest and most populated cities home.

Since their first match in March 1916, Madrid and Barcelona have faced off more than 200 times. According to statistics, each team has won 95 matches against the other and have tied 51 times.

At the beginning of the century, the Madrid and Barcelona rivalry was the only one of its league. But over time, big sparks began to fly between other teams as well.

2. Boca Juniors — River Plate (Argentina)

Supposedly every soccer fan has to visit a match between these rivals at least once in their lifetime. Boca Juniors and River Plate are the two biggest teams in Argentina.

Boca Junior and River Plate matches are referred to as “superclásicos“. Their rivalry dates back to the beginning of the last century when both teams had their stadiums in the same neighborhood (La Boca). Later on, River Plate moved away, but the heat continued to burn, even intensifying, between the teams.

rivalries boca juniors
Image: Yahoo Sports

The first match between Boca Juniors and River Platethe took place in August 1913. Today, they’ve played over 200 matches and counting. 

3. Soccer rivalries: Manchester United — Liverpool (England)

Of all the matches of the seasons, English fans most anticipate the North West Derby. It brings together two of the country’s most beloved teams: Manchester and Liverpool; both hail from Lancashire county.

The first time the Red Devils (Manchester) and the Reds (Liverpool) faced off was in April 1894. At the time, Manchester actually had a different name: Newton Heath. According to the statistics, the teams have played a total of 203 matches to date. Manchester has won 80 of those matches, Liverpool 66 and they tied 57 times.

4. A.C. Milan — Inter Milan

This famous soccer rivalry is peculiar because the teams don’t only share the same city but the stadium as well! Both teams call the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium, or San Siro, home. The entire city will often close whenever they meet on the pitch.

Referred to as the “Derby della Madonnina“, the rivalry game is one of the most important matches in Italy. The teams played against each other for the first time in October 1908 in a friendly match. They’ve played a total of 224 matches against each other to date. Of those 224 matches, Inter Milan has won 81 and A.C. Milan, 76. Lastly, they’ve tied 67 times.

5. Celtic — Rangers (Scotland): soccer rivalries

The next rivalry on our list isn’t just about soccer; the Celtic and Rangers burn over religion as well. The Rangers represent the Protestant faith while the Celtic, the Catholic faith. Both teams are based in one of Scotland’s most important cities, Glasgow.

rivalries celtic rangers
Image: BBC

The animosity between these teams dates back to the 17th century, outside of a soccer context. But the teams played against each other for the first time in May 1888. To date, they’ve played more than 400 matches!

Statistically speaking, their track records are pretty similar as the Rangers have won 161 times while their rivals, 158 (and they’ve tied 99 times). When the teams face off, the matches are called “Old Firm”.

6. Corinthians — Palmeiras (Brazil)

Brazil harbors many heated rivalries but the biggest of them all involves the teams from São Paulo. Fans refer to their matches as the “Derby Paulista” thanks to the comparison that a sports journalist made to one of the most famous horse races in the world, the Epsom Derby.

Corinthians and Palmeiras met on the pitch for the first time in 1917. According to the statistics, they’ve played a total of 361 games and counting.

To wrap up our post, we also want to mention: Olympiacos — Panathinaikos (Greece), Betis — Sevilla (Spain), Lazio — Roma (Italy) and América — Guadalajara (Mexico). Which rivalry do you think is the most intense?

  • Infobae. Tigres y América alimentan la rivalidad de la década en la liguilla del fútbol mexicano. Noviembre de 2019. https://www.infobae.com/america/deportes/2019/11/26/tigres-y-america-alimentan-la-rivalidad-de-la-decada-en-la-liguilla-del-futbol-mexicano/
  • López, J. Entrenadores que dirigieron a equipos con gran rivalidad. Diario As. Noviembre de 2019. https://us.as.com/us/2019/11/28/reportajes/1574920416_060672.html