These are the games that can make or break a season. These are the games when form goes out of the window. These are the games that fans look least forward to but most want to win. Rivalries make any sport worth following and football in particular has seen its fair share of rivalries across the world.
At its home, even with all the money being pumped from various sources and fans finding themselves disconnected from their clubs more than ever, it’s time we looked back on some of the fixtures that most fans, even neutrals, would mark their calendars to bear witness to.
6. Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur
Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur simply hate each other. Chelsea play so many derbies in a domestic season, being from London, but their games against Tottenham Hotspur are known for an intense dislike, which is completely mutual. Tottenham’s most recent win, the 5-3 against Chelsea at White Hart Lane in 2014/15 sticks out but the Blues have long enjoyed a fabulous record at home to Spurs so much so that even in their worst season in almost a decade as opposed to Spurs’ best in a long time, Chelsea managed to prevent their rivals from making the final push for the title – and were absolutely delighted to do it.
5. Merseyside Derby
Often known as the ‘friendly derby’ but say that to a red or a blue from Merseyside on derby day, if you really wanted to be put in a straitjacket. A game that’s been pretty one-sided in recent years largely due to Everton’s shortcomings which looked to have reached a climax when Liverpool beat their neighbours 4-0 in a comprehensive drubbing. But with a new manager in charge reinvigorated by fresh faces, the Merseyside are not a million miles away from playing host to two of the best sides in England.
4. Arsenal v Manchester United
In the late 90s and the early 2000s, this rivalry quite simply defined the Premier League. The two best teams in England by a country mile and to some extent, in Europe, went toe to toe on the pitch winning eight league titles between them from 1996-2004 while Arsene Wenger’s nouveau methods threatened to usurp Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United’s throne. Although there can never be another Keane vs. Vieira, Mourinho’s appointment has all the potential to reignite the fire that lit up English football all those years ago.
3. Manchester City v Manchester United
A decade ago, this game would not have made the list. That says it all about the gradual but definite rise of Manchester City as a genuine contender for the bragging rights in Manchester which for many years looked firmly in United’s grasp. In terms of its significance and impact on the title race, this should probably be number 1 and now with another interesting dimension added to the fixture in the form of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, the game’s profile is only bound to exponentially increase, if it hasn’t already.
2. Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur
The North London derby is undoubtedly the biggest and fiercest Premier League game in London. A hatred that has stemmed from Arsenal’s journey up north to former Spurs captain Sol Campbell’s transfer to Arsenal in such an acrimonious fashion, this rivalry has seen it all. With Tottenham’s evolution under Mauricio Pochettino, and both teams finishing so close to the top last season, it would be interesting to see if this derby finally has a direct effect on the battle to win the Premier League.
1. Liverpool v Manchester United
It’s England’s version of El Clasico in some ways as the two successful teams in the country representing two cities that share a feeling of mutual disregard. The Industrial revolution may have played a role in the latter but the bitterness between Liverpool and Manchester United grew out of the amount of success the two teams have enjoyed, albeit in different time periods.
United won the European cup in 68, ten years after the Munich air disaster but then faded into mediocrity as Liverpool racked up trophy after trophy in the 70s and 80s that included four European titles. Liverpool added another one in 2005 to make it five but there’s only one side in the world they’d rub that in with at every opportunity.
But Scotsman Ferguson’s arrival was exactly what the fixture needed as he led Manchester United to a record twenty league titles – overtaking their arch rivals much to their dismay. With Jurgen Klopp in charge of the Reds and Liverpool drawing first blood in Europe last season, there’s no doubt this fixture will remain the biggest in English football for the foreseeable future.
If you do not agree with the list, drop yours in the comments. I’d be delighted to discuss.