By Laurie Fitzgerald
We’re all set for the last weekend of Premier League action before the international break, and there are some intriguing match-ups before the two-week interval.
Today’s early kick-off sees Liverpool travel to Everton for the Merseyside derby, and tomorrow Tottenham take on Arsenal at White Hart Lane in the battle to see who is the current king of North London.
These two matches epitomise the fierce and passionate rivalry that exists for many clubs in English football, and for supporters of the four clubs, these particular games always mean that little bit more.
But which one stands out above them all, not only domestically but also considering some of the famous rivalries from around the world?
Liverpool and Everton always contest passionate and physical encounters, with this fixture usually throwing up the odd sending off or two.
With both clubs having a rich history and not much to separate them in current circumstances, it has made the contests in recent years even more difficult to call.
For Arsenal and Spurs it is a similar situation; following years of Gunners’ dominance under Arsene Wenger, the gap has closed considerably.
This fixture also lives up to expectations – who can forget Arsenal’s 5-4 win at White Hart Lane in 2005, and Spurs salvaging a dramatic 4-4 draw at the Emirates back in 2008?
These are not the only great rivalries in English football; there is a rivalry in Manchester that is getting more contentious by the week.
After decades of superiority, Manchester United have always seemingly had the upper hand over Manchester City. Even when City last won the title back in 1968, United went on to win the European Cup in the same season.
However, with City re-emerging as a major force, these two will not only be fighting to be the kings of Manchester, but most probably the kings of England too.
The second city derby is another fascinating spectacle with Aston Villa and Birmingham providing plenty of talking points, especially in recent years.
How about incidents such as THAT goal that Peter Enckelman conceded at St. Andrews in 2002? Or Dion Dublin’s headbutt on Robbie Savage in the same season?
While the two sides will have their rivalry uncontested this campaign, the controversial decision by Villa to appoint Blues manager Alex McLeish as their new boss in the summer will have ensured it will not be forgotten in the forseeable future.
Then there is the derby between two different cities but is a rivalry that is intense as any other; when Sunderland and Newcastle face one another it always generates an incredible atmosphere between two of the most passionate sets of supporters around.
There are many rivalries that will catch the attention of neutrals and make the players realise just what the club means to the fans.
Both Nottingham Forest and Derby enjoyed great success under the legendary Brian Clough, but this doesn’t stop them enthralling fans in passionate Midland derbies.
West Ham and Milwall’s disdain from one another originated from the docks, but it now firmly exists on the pitch.
While in League One, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United may have gone through difficult times, but the passion within the Steel City derby.
Swansea City and Cardiff City may have been separated by the Swans’ promotion to the top flight in May, but their battle to be the best in Wales has made it one of the biggest hate-hate relationships in Britain.
Talking of Britain, can any of those mentioned contest with the Old Firm, where the hatred between Celtic and Rangers is fuelled not only by football and city loyalties, but also religion?
On a global scale, there are few bigger than the El Classico; not only are Real Madrid and Barcelona two of the biggest clubs on the planet, but it’s difficult to find any side better than those currently on show at the Bernabeu and Nou Camp.
The great thing is that everyone has a rivalry that although may not get the same attention as some, it doesn’t take away what it means to those involved.
From Fenerbache v Galatassaray to Brighton v Crystal Palace; River Plate v Boca Juniors to Luton v Watford. Each rivalry may get different levels of attention, but it doesn’t make them any less special.
Without it, football just wouldn’t be the same.
So what do you think? What is your favourite rivalry in football? What are your best memories of rivalries that involve your clubs? Leave a comment and let us know your views.