Epic battles. On-field success. Geographical location. Reputation and status.
These are how rivalries are born—between teams that share the above descriptions.
Over the years, Liverpool have gotten into their fair share of great rivalries, and there are always fixtures on the calendar to look forward to every season.
So which are the Reds’ fiercest rivals? Whom do they best love celebrating against?
Here’s the Top 10 countdown.
Bill Shankly vs. Don Revie.
In the 1960s and 1970s, this was one of the major managerial matchups on the English domestic calendar, which meant that Liverpool and Leeds United were one of the biggest rivalries in the English game.
It all started with the 1965 FA Cup, which Liverpool won by 2-1. Then, in 1966, Liverpool won the League Title as Leeds finished as runners-up. Leeds pipped Liverpool to top spot in both 1969 and 1974.
With Leeds’ dramatic descent into the Championship and then League One, this historic matchup can only be re-enacted in domestic cups for now.
But with Leeds’ encouraging performances in the Championship season after season, perhaps it may not be long before the men in Red pay a visit to Elland Road on a regular basis.
Perhaps the scintillating match in 1996 alone would justify Newcastle’s inclusion on this list.
That match, featuring end-to-end attacking and counter-attacking football, finished 4-3 in Liverpool’s favor and has duly been voted as the Premier League’s Match of the Decade.
It doesn’t stop there.
A small recent blip by the Toon Army aside (when they spent a season in the Championship), the long-standing Premier League statuses of both teams have created a strong rivalry between two of England’s most passionate set of fans.
And the player transfers between the two clubs also fuels the on-field rivalry.
With Alan Pardew doing wonders in his first full season at St. James’ Park so far, the good old days of Liverpool and Newcastle jostling for the European places are on their way back.
The only reason AC Milan aren’t ranked higher on this list is that they don’t belong in the same domestic league as Liverpool, which limits the number of occasions they get to play each other.
But how the fireworks fly when they do.
The 2005 and 2007 Champions League finals featured clashes between the two traditional European heavyweights.
While Liverpool’s penalty shootout win in Istanbul is the stuff of legends, Milan’s in Athens two years later, courtesy of a clinical brace from Filippo Inzaghi, confirmed both teams’ return to the highest echelons of European football.
Two finals appearances in three seasons for the same teams: no mean feat for either side.
The history is all there: two of Europe’s most successful club teams ever, both having won the European Cup enough times to claim it for keeps.
Now as Kenny Dalglish aims to get his Reds back into the Top Four, we can only hope to see more fascinating battles between Liverpool and AC Milan.
Given their new-found wealth and status among the Premier League elite, it should be no surprise to see Manchester City force their way up this list.
Going by the old adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Manchester City have traditionally enjoyed better relations with Liverpool simply because Manchester United are both clubs’ fiercest rivals.
In recent years, however, as Thaksin Shinawatra and now Sheikh Mansour have injected their wealth and transformed City into the Premier League’s very own Galacticos, they have gatecrashed the Top Four party and, along with Spurs (more on them later), have turned it into a Top Six.
Back in 2008, Dirk Kuyt famously scored a last-gasp winner to bring home the three points after coming back two goals down. The 2010-2011 season featured a dominant 3-0 win at Eastlands under Roy Hodgson, before City went down by the reverse scoreline to Andy Carroll and his new team.
Now sitting nicely at the top of the league, City are the ones who welcome the challengers. It’s up to Kenny Dalglish and his men to prove that they’re worthy.
There can be no discussion on the Premier League’s best teams without a mention of Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspur.
Having taken over the Spurs reins from Juande Ramos in 2008, Redknapp has transformed the fortunes of the White Hart Lane club, turning them into a fixture among England’s elite. Last year’s swashbuckling performances in their debut Champions League campaign showed the promise and the swagger of a new-look Spurs side.
What of Liverpool, then?
They have been seriously affected by the arrival of Tottenham. There are no two ways about it. When Spurs qualified for the Champions League, they edged Liverpool out to the Europa League. When Spurs made the Europa League last season, they kicked Liverpool out of Europe altogether.
It’s a recent history thing, but that doesn’t make the rivalry any less significant.
And Tottenham’s easy 4-0 win over Liverpool in September has only highlighted the contrasts between the recent histories of the two teams.
One thing’s for sure: If Kenny Dalglish wants to take his team back into the Champions League spots, he’ll have a significant task on his hands.
Nine European Cups. Real Madrid have nearly double the total European Cup wins of Liverpool.
Both teams steeped in history, both continentally and domestically, Real Madrid and Liverpool are two of the world’s most well-known and well-supported teams.
Their most recent clash was in 2009, when the Reds stole a 1-0 away win at the Santiago Bernabeau before demolishing Real 4-0 at Anfield. Fernando Torres, brought up at Atletico Madrid, was only one of Madrid’s tormentors that night.
Come the end of the season, Liverpool’s player of the year, Xabi Alonso, completed a switch to the Spanish capital, an inevitable move that broke Red hearts. With former Reds stars like Michael Owen and Steve McManaman also realizing their “dreams” in moving to Real, Liverpool’s rivalry with Los Merengues is well documented.
But contributing just as equally to the rivalry is the presence of two men disliked by the Anfield faithful: former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and former Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.
Both fixtures in the Premier League’s erstwhile Top Four (now unofficially restyled as Top Six), Arsenal and Liverpool have had their memorable battles.
In recent history, we saw the memorable 4-4 league draw at Anfield in 2009, featuring four goals from Andrey Arshavin. The 2007-2008 Champions League campaign saw Liverpool defeat Arsenal by four goals to two after extra-time, the last game in a three-game consecutive matchup. In 2001, Liverpool beat Arsenal 2-1 in the FA Cup Final, now dubbed the “Michael Owen Final” due to his clinical brace at the death.
Going further back, Thierry Henry scored a sensational hat trick in a 2004 Arsenal win by 4-2.
But the most dramatic battle of them all was one that Arsenal won. Just.
On May 26, 1989, the last day of the season, Arsenal traveled to Anfield level on points and needing to score at least two goals to clinch the League Title.
And Michael Thomas scored in the last minute of the season to bring the trophy back to London.
This season, Liverpool have drawn first blood with a 2-0 win at the Emirates. As the competition for the four Champions League spots heats up, expect to see more fireworks between Liverpool and Arsenal.
Forget Jesper Gronkjaer’s goal in 2003 to take Chelsea into the Champions League at the expense of Liverpool.
Forget Roman Abramovich’s extravagant spending to turn Chelsea into a world force.
Forget that Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was once inches away from accepting Jose Mourinho’s overtures.
Forget Liverpool’s Champions League semifinal triumphs over Chelsea, twice in three years under Rafa Benitez’s reign.
No, Chelsea are placed third on this list because of the way Fernando Torres broke Anfield hearts and secured a switch to Stamford Bridge, when he once claimed he’d never leave for another English club.
Torres was once Chelsea’s tormentor, scoring seven times against the men in Blue. No matter how hard they try, Liverpool fans can’t forget how Torres endeared himself to the Kop with a superb goal against Chelsea on his Anfield debut. Nor his last-gasp double header in 2009. Nor his peach of a curler at Anfield in 2010.
Raul Meireles has since made the switch to Chelsea too, but the one that Liverpool fans cringe most seeing in a Blue shirt is, and will always be, Fernando Torres.
Everton fans will say that Liverpool took Anfield from them and that Liverpool started with blue shirts.
Liverpool fans will counter that they made Anfield famous and that they’re still the most successful club in England.
The intra-Liverpool rivalry has turned the Merseyside derby into one of the most eagerly anticipated games in the English calendar and one of the most famous derby games in the world.
While often billed as the “friendly derby,” recent encounters have been much more explosive—the fixture has more yielded more red cards than any other in Premier League history.
But no matter how much either side wants to take home the bragging rights, it’s still not uncommon to see Red and Blue shirts sitting side by side at Anfield or Goodison Park—and that’s what makes this a special, special rivalry.
To Liverpool fans, the 4-1 away demolition of Old Trafford will live long in the memory, as will getting Nemanja Vidic sent off for three consecutive matches against Liverpool.
To the Red Devils, Sir Alex Ferguson has already knocked Liverpool “off their ******* perch” with 19 league titles, eclipsing Liverpool’s total haul.
But until they catch Liverpool in the European realm, Steven Gerrard and the Kop will continue to celebrate with an open palm against United, claiming that their five European Cups mean that Liverpool are still the most successful in England.
The fact of the matter is that, while the 1970s and 1980s belonged to Liverpool, the 1990s and 2000s belonged to Manchester United.
And the fact of the matter is that the number of trophies won more than Liverpool is more important than the number of winning goals scored against United.
The biggest game in the Northwest of England, the biggest game in the English football calendar, remains the clash between two of England’s most successful football clubs, both coming from a similar background and roots.
As for the difference in league titles, Kenny Dalglish and his men in Red will be working hard to address that.
Epic battles. On-field success. Geographical location. Reputation and status.