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Top 10 Rivalries

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Ahead of Manchester United v Liverpool on Sunday, looks at some of the great sporting rivalries

Rivalries are what makes sport great - the fierce competition between neighbouring teams or clashes between two well-matched individuals.

Throughout the annals of sport of the years there has always been a great rivalry that has made a certain sport what it is, or captured the imagination of the viewing public.

Clashes between individuals, both friendly and fierce, have gone down as legend and are now filling up historians' books on the subjects, but some between great old sporting teams continue to this day.

Here picks out the top 10 sporting rivalries throughout the ages, see if you agree or add your own thoughts at the bottom of the page.

Real Madrid v Barcelona

El Classico is one of the most followed games in the world, and the two Spanish heavyweights have been fighting it out since 1902, often in high-octane affairs.

Madrid may be the Spanish capital but Barcelona proudly represents the Catalan region, with the club as their centre point. Matches between the two are often high-octane affairs, and no love is lost between the two sets of fans. Players who switch from one camp to the other often suffer the consequences - ask Luis Figo after he had a pig's head thrown at him as he returned to Camp Nou after his move to Real.

England v Australia

Ever since the press headline proclaimed 'the death of English cricket' after Australia's win in 1882, the two countries have played out the most exciting battle in cricket. Never has such a fierce battle been conducted for such a tiny trophy as the nations clash home and away for the tiny little urn. The art of 'sledging' reaches new heights in the Ashes and strength of character is every bit as important as skills on the field. From the famous 'Bodyline' tour in the 1930s right up to the momentous 2005 series, the Ashes burns bright among long-running sporting contests.

Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier

These two heavyweight legends played out a trilogy of fights that will never be surpassed, both in events in the ring and the hype and controversy that surrounded the build-up to them. Frazier won their first battle on points in 1971 to end Ali's unbeaten record, but revenge was exacted in 1974 with a 12-round points win also in New York. With Ali's taunts raising hostility between the two to new heights, the pinnacle came with the 'Thriller in Manila' in 1975 which produced one of the most brutal fights in history. Both men were out on their feet when Frazier's trainer kept him on his stool before the final round - suggestions are that Ali may have done the same, but he took the win despite being on his last legs himself. Such a fierce and bitter battle will never be repeated in boxing.

Alain Prost v Ayrton Senna

There was no love lost as two of the greatest drivers of all time delighted F1 fans with their continuous clashes for ten years between 1984-94. Different driving styles made the contest intriguing, but the personal hatred between them made it unmissable watching. Even when in the same McLaren team the two couldn't get along, as they both came off at Suzuka in 1989 after a reckless passing attempt from Senna, who was desperate to try and win the championship. Prost just about came on top overall with four titles to Senna's three.

Nigel Benn v Chris Eubank

Even ahead of Ali and Frazier, these two fighters probably hated each other more than any other two in history, and that general distained shone through in their enthralling battles. Eubank's arrogant antics really rubbed Benn up the wrong way, and in their middleweight title fight in 1990 every punch had some real venom in it - before Eubank recovered from two knockdowns to win one of the most exciting fights ever in the ninth. Fans had to wait three years for the rematch at super middleweight, with 42,000 packing out Old Trafford for one of the biggest fights ever. The bout ended in a draw and was maybe not as thrilling as the first, but equally vicious and although they never met again, the loathing in the rivalry will be hard to beat.

Bjorn Borg v John McEnroe

If ever there was the classic mix of styles, then this was it. The ice-cool Swede versus load-mouth American made for compelling viewing for tennis fans. McEnroe was all mouth but also blessed with immense talent, while Borg dominated but could never seemingly be flustered. Their unforgettable fourth set tie breaker at the 1980 Wimbledon final must be one of the most replayed highlights ever in the sport. McEnroe won it 18-16 but Borg won the title - although the American got his revenge by ending the Swede's run of five titles on the bounce at SW19.

Arnold Palmer v Jack Nicklaus

This rivalry sparked major interest in golf, as new boy Nicklaus overcame popular veteran Palmer in what was one of the friendliest rivalries ever played out in top level sport. Palmer had helped make golf a sport for all and not just the privileged and won seven majors during his dominance, but Nicklaus was about to launch into an even more dominant period as the Golden Bear went on to claim 18 major titles. Nicklaus won an 18-hole play-off in the 1962 US Open and that really saw an end to Palmer's dominance and ushered in the Nicklaus era.

Rangers v Celtic

Friendly is certainly not a word you would associate with an Old Firm derby, as one of the more volatile football matches around the globe. Although they face each other more than most other derby foes, that has not taken any heat out of the situation whatsoever. Being in the same city and more often than not being the only two rivals for the title does help in calming matters down. On the field it is often fast a furious with red cards aplenty, while off the field sectarian chants can often mar the occasion.

India v Pakistan

Another hugely volatile clash which owes a lot to political and cultural matters as well as on-field issues occurs when the two teams clash on the subcontinent. This rivalry has existed ever since Pakistan was created in 1947 and with cricket the national sport of both nations, this explosive cocktail mix was to be expected. Such huge interest in the game means that players are either heroes or hated by their fans after a win or defeat by their rivals. Major incidents include a pitch invasion by India fans in 1999 resulting in Pakistan winning the Test behind closed doors, while Inzamam-ul-Haq had to be restrained after leaping into the crowd with a cricket bat after suffering hours of abuse from India fans in Canada.

England v Scotland

When England meet Scotland at anything there tends to be a scrap, at least in the Calcutta Cup they can legitimately get their hands on each other. England have had the better of the matches over the years, but there is always a hugely fierce atmosphere when the two nations collide. Murrayfield matches perhaps enjoy the best atmosphere, with Scottish nationalism at its peak when the old enemy appear north of the border.

Comments (14)

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Ross Marley says...

Tonya Harding and Nancy Carrigan, nuff said

Posted 14:21 2nd June 2010

Matt Ferguson says...

What about the Manchester Derby?! Nevermind Arsenal - Man Utd, or Liverpool - Man Utd, the biggest league games for both teams are the two derby fixtures.

Posted 12:53 23rd May 2010

Callum Weir says...

what about nadal vs federer one of the best rivalries ever

Posted 14:58 14th May 2010

Nishanth Mohan (Arsenal fan) says...

Tennis = Nadal vs federer , Serena vs Venus EPL = Arsenal vs Tottenham, ManU vs Liverpool Spanish league = El clasico, Barca vs madrid Cricket = India vs pakistan , Ashes england vs australia F1 = Hakkinen vs Schumacher , Mclaren vs Ferrari

Posted 13:26 4th May 2010

Aidan Fullerton says...

McGrath v all the best batsmen in each team. Warne v all the best batsmen in each team. Warne v Muralitharan. Federer v Nadal. Australia v New Zealand in all sport.

Posted 06:10 3rd May 2010

Mitchell Stowells says...

What about Sunderland v Newcastle the North East is the heart of football and the derby means everything to peopel in the North East HA'WAY THE LADS !!!!

Posted 20:40 27th April 2010

Paul Mckeon says...

i argee with most of these but no tottenham arsenal or arsenal man united? really they dont get much bigger when it comes to english football? ENGLAND GERMANY is a must aswell no!!!!!!!!! also agree nadal and federer should b on there aswell

Posted 14:28 27th April 2010

Kyle Cox says...

What about Kelly Slater Vs Andy Irons. Surfing nedds more respects. These are true Champions of Nature

Posted 08:19 16th April 2010

Rhys Stevens says...

what about keegan and ferguson after that infamous bust up for the Premier League title in 1996 with Ferguson's usual mind games

Posted 19:41 13th April 2010

Nigel Bishop says...

what about big daddy and giant haystacks

Posted 16:50 11th April 2010

Ricardo Collymore says...

You missed Lara V Magrath and Thompson Lillee V Viv Richards

Posted 21:51 22nd March 2010

Nigel Detubervile says...

Anybody who even knows a morsel about cricket knows its India vs Pakistan, players houses trashed, effigies burnt. What can you compare to that?

Posted 22:29 21st March 2010

Gary Sharkey says...

What about Nadal vs Federer?

Posted 14:33 20th March 2010

Harun Yahya says...

No doubt rivalries make sport what it is. I remember fondly the rivalry between United & Arsenal when Keane V Viera took place, that was interesting. Arturo Gatti V Ward, Allan Donald bowling to Atherton. Argentina V England. The list is endless. AC Milan V Inter Milan is quite special, once one of the Inter supporters dropped a quad bike from the stands onto the milan supporters. Although wrestling is fake, Hulk Hogan V Andre the Giant was quite a spectacle.

Posted 09:13 20th March 2010

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