Sunday sees two of the Premier League’s biggest rivalries in action as Arsenal face Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates before Liverpool host Everton at Anfield. Meanwhile, Chelsea kick-start the day with a lunchtime encounter with west London neighbours Fulham in their first meeting since 2014.
Are local derbies the biggest fixtures in the Premier League, or are there bigger, most intense matches in England’s top flight? Here, ESPN FC ranks the biggest rivalries in English football, using three components — history, current importance, and unpredictability — on a scale of 1 through 5 (1 = barely registers, 5 = through the roof).
7. Liverpool vs. Everton
A true city rivalry that divides families. Less than a mile separates Anfield and Goodison Park at either side of Stanley Park, but the so-called “friendly derby” of the 1980s has now become more bitter and hostile, with Evertonians claiming to be the “People’s Club” in contrast to Liverpool’s more global fanbase.
History: Everton had been the city’s most powerful and successful club until the 1960s but Liverpool’s subsequent rise under Bill Shankly turned the tide in their favour. The rivalry peaked in the 1980s, when the two clubs fought it out for league titles and FA Cups, but Everton’s silverware drought now dates back to 1995 and they are now firmly in Liverpool’s shadow. Rating: 4/5
Current importance: This game was the biggest in English football during the late-1980s as both dominated the major honours, but it is now nothing more than a battle for local pride. It is Everton’s biggest game of the season but Liverpool now look towards City, United and Chelsea for their big games. Rating: 1/5
Unpredictability: Everton have not beaten Liverpool at Anfield since 1999 and their home record against the Reds is also unimpressive. Liverpool don’t win them all, but they don’t lose many and it has become a one-sided rivalry in recent years. Rating: 2/5
Overall rating: 8/15
6. Tottenham vs. Arsenal
North London neighbours and traditionally London’s big two until the emergence of Chelsea under Roman Abramovich. The local rivalry between Spurs and Arsenal dates back to 1913, when Arsenal left their original home of Woolwich, south of the River Thames, to move onto Spurs territory in the north of the city.
History: Arsenal have always viewed themselves as the establishment club in London, but Spurs were the one associated with glamour and pure footballing principles, becoming the first team in the 20th century to win the league and FA Cup double in 1961. Arsenal emulated that success 10 years later, but the arrival of Wenger in 1996 changed the narrative, with the Gunners blending success with style while Spurs struggled to keep up. Rating: 3/5
Current importance: A big game in London, but with neither team regarded as genuine title contenders, it does not resonate quite so much around the country or globally. Local rivalry is intense between Spurs and Arsenal, but it is not a game that makes a dent in the title race. Rating: 2/5
Unpredictability: Spurs have beaten Arsenal away from home just twice since the Premier League began in 1992 but their record at White Hart Lane and Wembley is more respectable, particularly in recent seasons. Arsenal are no longer the dominant force of the Wenger era, so this game has become too close to call. Rating: 4/5
Overall rating: 9/15
5. Chelsea vs. Liverpool
A rivalry that came alive during the mid-2000s, when Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez’s teams clashed in cup finals and seismic Champions League semifinals. For a period of time, Chelsea vs. Liverpool became the most bitter rivalry in English football.
History: Liverpool supporters still mock Chelsea for their lack of “history” but the London club have enjoyed over a decade of success since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003, with the 2012 Champions League the crowning glory. Chelsea’s rise as a force in the game has mirrored Liverpool’s decline and although the Anfield outfit are now a resurgent force, Chelsea’s recent silverware haul is far greater than Liverpool’s. Rating: 3/5
Current importance: The hostility of the Mourinho-Benitez years has subsided and the games involving the two clubs lack the importance of those times, but there is usually something at stake for at least one of the teams when they meet. Rating: 3/5
Unpredictability: No team dominates this fixture and both clubs have impressive records against each other away from home. When it comes to predicting the winner, it is often best to look at the form guide and go with the team struggling for a result. Rating: 4/5
Overall rating: 10/15
4. Arsenal vs. Manchester United
North vs. South, London vs. Manchester, the most successful club in the capital against the biggest club in England. This was always one of English football’s biggest games, but it became the biggest of them all for almost a decade when Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger’s teams were at their peak during the late-1990s and early-2000s.
History: Only Arsenal can come close to competing with United and Liverpool in terms of prolonged success and their rivalry with United stretches back to the 1950s. The Ferguson-Wenger era took it to new heights, though, with no other club winning the title between 1996 and 2004. The rivalry and animosity boiled over on and off the pitch with Ferguson and Wenger clashing verbally as often as the likes of Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira, Martin Keown and Ruud van Nistelrooy went head-to-head on the pitch. Rating: 4/5
Current importance: Things just ain’t what they used to be. Having been THE game for almost a decade, United vs. Arsenal is no longer a battle for the title, but more likely a decider as to which club finished in the top four. Both have declined alarmingly since their peak years and United-Arsenal games are now just a sad reminder of how far both have fallen. Rating: 2/5
Unpredictability: Unai Emery’s arrival at the Emirates has breathed new life into Arsenal following Wenger’s departure during the summer, so they may regain the upper hand in battles against United, who have dominated this fixture since the height of their rivalry subsided in the mid-2000s. With both teams still searching for their identity, anything can happen when they meet. Rating: 4/5
Overall rating: 10/15
3. Manchester City vs. Manchester United
A rivalry stretching back to the 1890s, with City the dominant force in the city before the Second World War and United growing in strength and success in the second half of the 20th century. City’s decline in the 1990s mirrored United’s rise, but the Blues are now back on top after 10 years of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan’s ownership.
History: United have long regarded their neighbours — billed as the “noisy neighbours” by Sir Alex Ferguson — as poor relations on and off the pitch. City’s drop into the third tier of English football in the 1990s made them almost irrelevant to United, who regarded Liverpool, Arsenal and Leeds as bigger rivals. But City’s resurgence over the past decade has reignited the rivalry to levels not witnessed since the 1960s, when the two clubs last battled it out for honours. Rating: 3/5
Current importance: At one stage during this decade, City vs. United became the biggest game in England and one of the biggest in the world as the two clubs fought it out for the Premier League title. The rivalry was at its peak between 2011 and 2013, when every encounter was crucial in the outcome of the title race. United’s recent slump has left City with more direct rivals over the past five years, but this game always matters. Rating: 4/5
Unpredictability: City failed to beat United for 13 years during their dark days of the 1990s and 2000s, but they are now top dogs in Manchester and have won on their last two visits to Old Trafford. United fought back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at the Etihad last season, though, so this derby is usually impossible to predict. Rating: 4/5
Overall rating: 11/15
2. Liverpool vs. Manchester City
This game is all about the here and now. It is Liverpool’s history and tradition against the new wealth and unchecked ambition of City. It is also about Jurgen Klopp vs. Pep Guardiola and Mohamed Salah vs. Kevin De Bruyne. It is big names and scintillating football all the way, with an increasing element of hostility between the two clubs.
History: Not one of the classic rivalries in English football, with both clubs traditionally directing their energies towards Manchester United. City and Liverpool had briefly been rivals during the 1960s until the current battle for supremacy began as recently as 2013-14, when Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea helped give City the edge in the title race. Liverpool’s honours list dwarfs that of City — a point often made by the Liverpool supporters when the two sides meet. Rating: 2/5
Current importance: This has become the most anticipated game in English football, particularly during the past 18 months, due to Liverpool’s ability to get under City’s skin. The two clubs clashed in the Champions League last season, with Liverpool coming out on top, and Jurgen Klopp’s men also inflicted City’s first league defeat last term. No other fixture carries more importance to the title race right now than Liverpool against City. Rating: 5/5
Unpredictability: Liverpool have had the edge in recent meetings and they are perhaps the only Premier League team feared by Pep Guardiola, but City’s firepower ensures that they cannot be billed as underdogs when the two sides meet. Rating: 5/5
Overall rating: 12/15
1. Liverpool vs. Manchester United
By some distance, they are English football’s two most successful and best-supported clubs. When it comes to global impact, this fixture is up there with Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, Boca Juniors vs. River Plate and Celtic vs. Rangers. The rivalry goes beyond football; the two cities just 35 miles apart have been competing in industry and culturally for over a century.
History: With 38 league titles between them (United 20, Liverpool 18) and eight European Cup/Champions League titles (United three, Liverpool five), it’s a super-power clash when these two meet. Liverpool dominated for 20 years during the 1970s and 1980s, United took over under Sir Alex Ferguson during the 1990s and 2000s. Such is the rivalry that no player has moved between the clubs since 1964. Rating: 5/5
Current importance: Liverpool vs. United is always a huge occasion but it’s tough to argue the case for it being regarded as the most important game of the season. United’s recent decline has seen them drop out of contention for the Premier League title since their last success in 2013, while Liverpool have been champions since 1990.
Liverpool are now enjoying a resurgence but when it comes to the game that matters most to them and the league this season, it is the one against Manchester City rather than United. Rating: 3/5
Unpredictability factor: These two have met 200 times in competitive action, with United winning 80 and Liverpool 65. When one club is on top, it rarely dictates the outcome of encounters, though, with unpredictability running straight through the middle of the rivalry. Rating: 5/5
Overall rating: 13/15