Europe’s Top 5 Fiercest Derbies

1778. You would have to back almost three centuries to find the origin of the word ‘Derby’. Edward Smith-Stanley was the aristocrat who coined the term after deciding to create an elite horse race in Epsom downs in the English country of Surrey. Seeing as Smith-Stanley was the 12th Earl of Derby, the name seemed to stick and quickly became a hugely popular annual event in British horse racing. As British sports such as Football and Rugby began to thrive across Europe during the 1800s and 1900s, the idea of the ‘Derby’, two teams who are local to each other playing against each other, was born.

5. Liverpool vs Manchester United (North West Derby)

Manchester United / Liverpool

When the two most successful clubs in England go face to face, it is always going to be heated. England’s North West Derby between Manchester United and Liverpool is a game that represents much more than the on-field play. Both clubs are Northern working-class towns with extremely passionate fans who have had extremely successful periods during the 1980s. Alongside this, both have seen tragedy with Liverpool’s Hillsborough disaster killing 96 fans and United’s ‘Busby Babe’s’ with an aeroplane crash killing the whole of the first team in the Munich air disaster of 1958. All these factors lead to an explosive derby of passion, tragedy and success with the game always turning out to be a jaw-dropping match.

4. Barcelona vs Real Madrid (El Classico)

Barcelona / Real Madrid

Similar to many of the Derbies globally, one of the reasons why ‘El Classico’ is such a hotly contested game is due to its history and the political aspect of the two rivalling sides. On the one hand, F.C. Barcelona represents the left-sided ideals of Spanish politics with the yellow and red flags regularly seen around the Camp Nou being the flag of Catalonia. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936, this region sided against the right-wing nationalist movement which was associated with none other than; Madrid. It is not only politics, however, as the two clubs have seen some of the greatest players to ever grace the game wear either the blue and red of Barcelona and/or the Royal white of Real Madrid. As well as this, the two clubs have an extensive trophy cabinet that is unrivalled throughout Europe.

3. Fenerbahce vs Galatasaray (The Intercontinental Derby)

Fenerbahce / Galatasaray

The first game between these two Turkish clubs was first played in 1909 with the Turkish class system playing a major part in which sets of fans followed which club, yet the modern era has created a diverse set of fans on both sides. The derby is mainly known for the huge pyrotechnical displays coming from both sides of the stadium. The amount of smoke that comes from the crowd sometimes looks as though the stadium is on fire. The ‘Intercontinental Derby’ has seen some iconic games with one major game being when Graeme Souness’s Galatasaray won the derby which led to Souness running into the centre of the Fenerbahce stadium, after the victory, and placing a huge Galatasaray flag in the centre circle, much to the outrage of the other fans.

Rangers vs Celtic (Old Firm Derby)

Celtic / Rangers

In second place on the list of ‘Top 5 European Derbies’ has to be the oldest Derby in Football; The Old Firm Derby. The origins of the game was actually surprisingly different than what many would expect. The early games between the two clubs, as noted in advertising at the time, likened the two clubs as ‘like two old, firm friends’ hence the name; ‘Old Firm’. However, as the political divides within Glasgow began to grown, the politics of the two teams began growing further and further apart, with Rangers not signing a catholic player for decades to come.  The Derby has seen over 160 games played with Rangers just edging the number of overall wins in the tie.

1. Lazio vs Roma (Derby della Capitale)

Lazio / Roma

What other derby is as fiercely contested as the two sides of Rome. The Laziali and Romanisti have been battling for the dominance of the Capital since 1929. Many Roma fans argue that they are the true Romans with rivalling Lazio fans being known as ‘outsiders’. Yet, Lazio was in fact the first club of the Capital and the only one who refused to agree to a joining of all Roman football clubs at the time of Benito Mussolini. Both the Curva Nord and Curva Sud have consistently created breath-taking displays throughout the years as a way of urging their team to victory. Many feel the importance of this game overshadows even the winning of the Scudetto; hence the reason for its first-place finish on this list.