There’s nothing that ignites the passion inside a football fan’s belly quite like the best football derbies. Of course, every game their team plays is important, but the old rivalry of the derbies cannot be beaten. A win against your sworn rival is so much sweeter than a win against any other club. As a player for top Premier League teams, a former Ranger player and Scottish International, Colin Hendry has played in his fair share of derbies. He gives us his insights into the best around – and what it is that makes them so exciting.
So… what’s first in our list of best football derbies? Well, surprisingly, Hendry believes possibly the fiercest rivalry is all the way over in South America – when Boca Juniors take on River Plate. As we looked at in the last article on cards – it gets intense – with over 8 cards being awarded on average; red included. It gets nasty on the pitch – and nasty off the pitch as well. In fact, the fans are so passionate that they fill up a stadium just to watch the training for the match.
In fact, so passionate were the fans, that the 2nd leg ended up being postponed several times – either due to the weather or the team coach being attacked, that it ended up being played in an entirely different continent – in Spain. This derby really takes it to another level when such vitriol and fervor sends the game overseas. Derby rivalries don’t get bigger than this.
Having said that, the world record for attendance in a derby goes to Fla-Flu – Flamengo v Fluminense in Rio de Janiero, 1963, with 194,000 in attendance.
Local Derbies Closer to Home
Rangers v Celtic
However, there are also some top rivalries closer to home – in Europe and the UK. So what is the top of these? Well, according to Hendry, there’s no bigger derby than the old firm Derby – Rangers v Celtic.
As a former Rangers player that has himself taken part in the Rangers v Celtic derby, Hendry describes the depth of the rivalry between these two teams. He says that despite the liquidation of The Rangers Football Club PLC at the end of the 2011-12 season, which saw them out of the Scottish Premiership until the 2016-17 season, the competition is still unrivalled anywhere else. The clubs are currently neck and neck at the top of the SPL, although Celtic has one game in hand. However, their last derby, on Dec 29, saw Rangers come out on top… but the derby has a mottled history.
Rangers and Celtic are unarguably the most successful teams in Scottish Premiership history; this rivalry is great for Scotland as it generates great revenue for the country. This is another derby that has a history of violence – with pitch invasions and vandalism rife. In fact, the violence between the two has even resulted in a number of deaths over the years… you take your life in your hands when watching this one.
However, Hendry remembers the derby in a much more positive way as he recalls the time he played for Rangers as they beat Celtic and won the treble at Park Head. This Old Firm derby is one that evokes emotions in the hearts of the Scottish people and will always be known as one of the best Derbies in the UK.
Man Utd v Man City
Another huge derby in the UK takes place between Manchester United and Manchester City. And this is another derby in which Hendry has personal experience of. Back in the day, Man U was undoubtedly the biggest and most successful club in the Premier League, although Man City always put up a good fight. However, these days Manchester City is the club to beat…
This derby always pulls in the crowds – now more than ever with some of the biggest footballing names in the world playing on both teams. It is even more significant now Man City has risen from the shadow of Man U and now goes head to head as equals, not the underdog.
In total, the teams have gone head to head 165 times, with Manchester United winning 69 times and Manchester City winning 46 times. Hendry recalls one of the matches he took part in as a City player, where it resulted in one of the 50 draws. The Cityzens were coming back from an earlier 5-1 hammering and Hendry was new on the team. It was Hendry that scored the 3rd goal for City in a moment that Gazza himself would be proud of; however, the team then conceded another 2 goals to end the game in a draw.
Currently, Man City are the one holding the cards though, having won the last derby 3-1. However, March 16th sees the team go head to head again, this time at Old Trafford… can Man U pull it back? We’ll wait and see…
The North London Derby
There are a number of notable derbies in London that garner attention. However, it tis the rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspurs. This is described by many as one of the fiercest rivalries in the Premier League and it guarantees a fast-paced, action packed game.
With both teams offering a lot going forward, this game always offers its fans some of the best displays of attacking football in the Premier League; in fact, the highest scoring match between the teams saw 9 goals in total – a 5-4 win to Arsenal. One thing is for certain, the derbies between these teams will never bore the audience. Arsenal have often edged the win over Tottenham – including the recent 4-2 victory, that saw Gooners dancing in the aisles – despite being lower in the league than Spurs. However, Spurs are now much more able to put up a good fight and the victory could go any way these days.
In total, the teams have gone head to head 177 times. Arsenal have dominated with 76 wins compared to Tottenham’s 54 wins and the 47 draws. The next match is on 2nd March… can Tottenham make the most of the home advantage?
The Merseyside Derby
The Merseyside derby sees top Premier League team, Liverpool, go head to head with local rivals, Everton. This derby has the most number of matches in English football history. However, it is also one of the fiercest and most competitive around. This is shown by the record number of red cards that have been shown within these fixtures.
However, it’s not just madness that pervades the pitch when these two teams go head to head; brilliance is also there in abundance. Both teams want to shine in the city of Liverpool and both teams strive to be the best and this is evident every time they play. Rafa Benitez once called Everton ‘a small team’ and Evertonians didn’t take it lightly. However, history has proved that Liverpool FC have dominated in wins, despite the highest scoring match recorded between them being a 5-2 victory to Everton.
In total, the two scouse teams have played 222 times. Liverpool have won 89 times, Everton have won 66 times and the draw has been recorded in 67 of the matches. The last match saw Liverpool snatch a last minute goal at the expense of a Pickford error and it’s likely that Liverpool will win the next also. They are flying high whilst Everton are struggling – but surprises happen. The next match takes place on 2nd March… let’s see what happens to the stats then.
So, what does Hendry see as the other local derbies of interest?
Other Top Local Derbies
West Brom v Wolves – a mid-country derby that runs deep.
Sunderland v Newcastle – a derby so passionate amongst all its northern supporters.
West Ham United v Millwall – go to The Den as a WHU fan and take your life into your hands.
Blackburn v Burnley – it’s all very even – with 41 v 42 wins…
Dundee v Dundee Utd – a derby that has dropped in the stakes as the teams dropped in the rankings.
Swansea v Cardiff –The South Wales derby sees Cardiff coming out on top with 27 wins versus 22.
England v Scotland
One international derby that is as fierce off the pitch as on is the rivalry between England and Scotland. The history between the two countries means that matches between the two teams could be nothing but fierce – with violent out bursts. As you may expect, England have dominated the statistics – but not by as many matches as you’d think. Out of 114 matches, England have won 48, lost 41 and drawn 25. However, if you look at the matches since the 1970s, it’s more revealing. Scotland have won just 6 of the 28 games, with 4 draws – and the rest victories for England.
Hendry himself played in one of the most memorable of these wins for England, in Euro 96, where England defeated Scotland by 2 goals to 0; it was in this match that Gazza scored a wonder goal that he chipped over Hendry and fired past Andy Goram. However, As Hendry himself said of the goal – ‘it took England’s greatest player to do that’.
At the moment, Scotland isn’t in the position to make a big impact against the England football squad, with a lot of young talent coming through the ranks south of the border. There aren’t any scheduled matches between the two coming up, but the next match, whenever it may be, will bring up a lot of fierce rivalries with the Scots wanting to put England back in their place.
The Iberian Derby
The rivalry between Portugal and Spain is one of the oldest national footballing rivalries. It began back in 1921, when Spain beat Portugal 3-1. For years Spain dominated the derby, winning every game until 1947 – bar 2 draws. Spain got some huge wins in in that time, including an incredible 9-0 victory in 1934.
However, when looking at the overall statistics, it is still in Span’s favour, despite Portugal’s recent rise in prominence. Out of 36 matches, Spain have won 16, lost just 6 and have drawn 14 times. In fact, the goal difference is also well in Spain’s favour – with their 75 goals compared to Portugal’s 44.
However, things are looking much more equal now, with the last 2 games ending in a draw. It’s exciting to see what will happen next. Spain will always be favourites, but Portugal are always capable of upsets.
Other Top Derbies
El Clasico: Real Madrid v Barcelona
Derby della Madonnina: Inter Milan v AC Milan
The North West Derby: Liverpool v Man City
Derby d’Italia: Inter Milan v Juventus
Der Klassiker: Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund
El Derbi Madrileno: Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid
Coming Up – Colin’s Top Tips
Liverpool v Man City – Liverpool have everything going for them but Man City need the win – could be a draw. The missed penalty at Anfield could be a big moment. Will Henderson play? That could be key to a Liverpool victory.
Arsenal v West Ham United – West Ham are capable of good things this season and could cause Arsenal problems.
Brighton v Liverpool
Man City v Wolves
Burnley v Fulham
Crystal Palace v Watford
Leicester v Southampton
Chelsea v Newcastle
FA Cup Tips:
Accrington Stanley v Ipswich – Accy Stanley to win: Best odds 6/4 at BetFred
Bristol City v Huddersfield – Bristol to win: Best odds 13/10 at 888sport
Norwich v Portsmouth – Portsmouth to win: Best odds 4/1 at Bet365
2 shockers worth taking a punt on:
Sheffield Weds v Luton – Luton to win: Best odds 11/5 at Unibet
And Fulham v Oldham – Oldham to slay the giant: Best odds 9/1 at Bet365