In light of the upcoming north London Derby clash this weekend, let’s momentarily adjust our focus from the English calendar, to affix our gaze to matters of a similar nature from across Europe.
Despite the all consuming nature of the Premier League, those other countries across the channel have their fair share of footballing rivalries.
Indeed, contrary to English folklore, football is perhaps never as feisty as when it bears a European hue (although Brits have occasionally managed to propel themselves to the fore of such affairs – think Souness and his flag circa 1996).
Accordingly, here are six of the spiciest derby encounters in recent times from across Europe.
6. The Rhone Derby: St Etienne 0-5 Lyon – November 2017
The defining image of a tempestuous derby, as well as the trigger for much of the chaos at its summation, Lyon’s clash with neighbouring town St-Etienne in November was perhaps as fiery as it gets.
Notorious for such tendencies in France, and for being the country’s fiercest derby, the rivalry is less known elsewhere, although Fekir’s infamous provocation was dotted across back pages and landing pages all over the globe.
Notwithstanding Fekir’s ill advised parting gift, and the deeply objectionable ensuing violence, the game itself was incident packed for all the right reasons.
It had everything that encapsulates a derby; a magical performance from a captain, goals galore (albeit in a one-sided manner), a rash red card. Indeed, it was even temporarily halted after 60 seconds due to poor visibility, on account of the plethora of flares on display – watch out for an emerging theme.
5. Derby della Capitale: Lazio 0-2 Roma – December 2016
There’s a reason Rome’s city rivalry is considered superior to any other in Italy in terms of ferocity, and sadly it’s not always because of the action on the pitch.
The Derby della Capitale has always been hotly contested, with the lines between sporting passion and genuine hatred often blurred, on the pitch and the terraces.
As is generally customary, it was the latter that prevailed in December 2016. Kevin Strootman’s over exuberance in his goal celebration – which included spraying the opposition bench with water – resulted in a mass brawl, and the sending off of his primary water target, Danilo Cataldi, after he chased the Dutchman down and scragged him by the collar.
In even uglier scenes, but sadly not atypical ones in Italy, Lazio’s Senad Lulic was subsequently banned for 20 days after he aired his inexplicably racist comments aimed at Antonio Rudiger in his post-match interview.
In spite of Lulic’s disgraceful actions, the game was played at full tilt, and the self-imposed absence of Roma’s fans created an eerie and idiosyncratic atmosphere, with Lazio’s players ultimately unable to convert the considerable advantage they had in the stands on to the pitch.
4. Belgrade Derby: Red Star 1-1 Partizan – April 2016
The ‘spice’ of many other rivalries across Europe would be considered mango & lime on the Nandos scale compared to the unforgiving extra hot heat of the ‘Eternal Derby’.
Regrettably, such a fierce rivalry goes hand in hand with extraordinary violence it seems, and this encounter was not an exception.
However, on the field the game was action-packed, and incident filled, with a goal in the 85th minute lending Red Star the lead, before a 94th minute red card allowed Partizan to snatch a 95th minute equaliser.
This in turn lead to the goalscorer’s 96th minute sending off, after general excess and unwise taunting in his celebration, as well as a near fight with the opposition striker. All in a days work in Belgrade.
3. Derby de Lisboa: Sporting CP 2-1 Benfica – November 2015
A relatively rare meeting in the Portuguese Cup between the two Lisbon sides coincided with an emotional tribute to Sporting’s (and arguably Portugal’s) greatest ever player, Fernando Peyroteo.
Naturally, Sporting’s players were especially impassioned on the night, and with the great man’s name emblazoned on the back of each green and white shirt, were united in their quest for victory.
And it came in the most dramatic of circumstances, with Adrien Silva cancelling out Konstantinos Mitroglou’s early goal in the first half, before Islam Slimani finally netted the winner in the 112th minute to send Sporting through.
Oh and, in following convention, Benfica received two late red cards for their troubles.
2. Ruhr Derby: Dortmund 4-4 Schalke – December 2017
Frankly, derbies don’t get better than this. We all know the story by now, but it’s still worth momentarily rehashing the drama.
The away side were 4-0 down at half time, bereft of all confidence and footballing capability. What happened in the following half was the epitome of a sporting miracle.
The Royal Blues produced a truly phenomenal display, aided of course by a red card to Dortmund’s now departed striker Pierre Emerick Aubameyang – as we’ve learnt, it wouldn’t be a proper derby without one – and recorded one of the Bundesliga’s most inexplicable and savoured victories.
1. El Clasico: Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona – April 2017
The mother of all derbies, and in all likelihood the defining fixture in world sport. No domestic rivalry has thrown up more controversy, passion or jaw dropping moments than this seismic clash.
And, indeed all of these celebrated qualities and more were on show in the titanic tussle between the two in April 2017.
The match was played at a breathtaking pace, and served up some sumptuous goals, staggering saves and astounding misses. Some things were admittedly more predictable, like Sergio Ramos scoring and then getting sent off. Tick.
But the lasting image is that of Lionel Messi exhibiting his shirt for Real Madrid fans the world over to see, after a last gasp winner capped off a display that will be etched in to El Clasico legend, and recounted alongside the most distinguished performances in the fixture’s unrivalled history.