Derbies in La Liga transcend football. They are about tradition, history, and culture, and are some of the most exciting and fiercely contested matches in the world. This is a fact that is, unfortunately, known only to Spanish nationals and core fans of La Liga, as most fans only know about El Clasico and the Madrid Derby.
We are going to introduce you to the derby culture and to derbies you should definitely watch out for in Spain this season, other than El Clasico and the Madrid Derby.
SPAIN’S DERBY CULTURE
When football established itself in Spain, clubs became adopted symbols of the country’s respective regions which led to rivalries developing between teams, with the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid, the two biggest clubs from two of the biggest regions in Spain becoming the biggest rivalry in the country.
Frequent important meetings in the league and cup competitions over the years led to more rivalries developing, like the Barcelona city rivalry between FC Barcelona and Espanyol (a club formed by fans from the city who wanted more Spanish representation in their football club).
There is also “El Viejo Clasico” (The Old Classic) which is the rivalry between Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao, and it was the most played game in La Liga until December 10, 2011. This rivalry came to be as a result of the dominance of these two clubs (along with Barcelona) of the game in Spain. It has dulled over the years, but it is one steeped in history. It is, however, still the most played game in Copa Del Rey.
Fans of rival clubs too always seek to outdo each other as matches are made colourful. Cultural displays, banners, artwork, and loud anthems are a staple in these matches.
LA LIGA 2019/20 DERBIES
The derbies to be contested this season in La Liga are: Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla, El Viejo Clasico between Real Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao, the Barcelona derby between Barcelona vs Espanyol, the Valencian derby between Valencia vs. Levante, the Basque derby between Athletic Bilbao vs. Real Sociedad, Derbi de la Comunitat between Valencia vs Villarreal, the South Madrid derby between Getafe and Leganes, the Seville derby between Sevilla vs. Real Betis, the Madrid Derby between Real Madrid vs Atlético Madrid, and El Clasico – Barcelona vs Real Madrid.
They all promise excitement, but the following are the derbies to really lookout for this season.
Getafe vs Leganes – The south Madrid derby
This derby is a relatively new addition, but this season it has the potential to come full circle judging from both their performances last season, especially that of Getafe.
Leganes fans especially will be desperate for their team to establish local dominance, seeing as their derby rivals have broken into the top half of the team and even secured and European football slot. While the clubs are small, there is no love lost between the two sets of fans as they have both had violent clashes in the past.
Both teams have not hit the ground running yet, but however, Getafe has a far superior strike force in Jaime Mata and Eric Gallego. Jaime Mata is already off the mark in fact, as he netted in Getafe’s draw with Bilbao on match week two.
There is much to play for, and we can expect both teams, both coaches and both sets of fans to go all out this season.
Atletico Madrid vs. Sevilla
This derby goes beyond football and is the most politically motivated rivalry in Spain. It goes less without saying that both sets of fans reserve a specific hatred for each other, as games between both teams in the past have seen bloody violence as well as corruption via match-fixing scandals.
Atleti’s Ultras, “El Frente”, are right-wing, while the hardcore Sevilla fans are left-wing. When both teams met in the past, political debates began between fans and, as mentioned above, these debates led to bloody violence. Once, a bottle of whiskey was thrown at the Sevilla goalkeeper by Atletico fans during a match.
Although the violence has dimmed, the history between these two clubs has kept the rivalry going and even though it tends to get messy sometimes outside the pitch, both teams always give it their all against each other to earn their fans the bragging rights over each other.
Comparing both clubs, we can tell straight off the bat who the better side is and where their strengths lie. However, the element of surprise which Sevilla brings to the league this season – they are fielding a totally refurbished team – will definitely make matches between these two teams exciting.
Sevilla vs. Real Betis – The Seville derby
Just like Barcelona in the Catalonia region and Madrid in the Castile region, Seville in the Andalusian region (the largest region in Spain) is another city with split loyalties. You’re either a Sevilla fan, or a Real Betis fan. There is no middle ground between inhabitants of the city. This particular city rivalry is so deep, that it splits families apart.
Often referred to as Spain’s biggest, most competitive rivalry, there have been some epic clashes between both teams in recent history that still resonate in the Spanish footballing world. Just last season at the Benito Villaramin (Betis’ home ground) both teams played out a hard-fought, passionate 3-3 draw which included a raucous atmosphere, a comeback and a Gary Medel red card.
Historically, Real Betis have been the better side as well as the bigger side – their fan base is about 10,000 times bigger than that of Sevilla’s – and this derby was almost one-sided, but over the past 10-15 years, Sevilla have emerged as the more successful club with no fewer than five Europa League successes and more finishes in the top half of the league giving them a clear edge in terms of success.
We have seen how both teams are set up this season and can also tell where their strengths lie, but we are in for a surprise because there is not enough data of this season’s Sevilla as a team to analyse to enable Rubi, manager of Betis, prepare. Betis only have history to play for against this new-look Sevilla and it promises to be exciting.
Real Madrid vs Atlético Madrid – The Madrid derby
For long periods, this derby was comparable to that of Espanyol and Barcelona – a lopsided rivalry. However, Atletico’s rise in recent history have seen them compete in this derby convincingly, even coming away with famous victories against Madrid. Also, it is known that there are few things Atléti fans enjoy more than getting one over on their illustrious neighbours.
This fixture has been an increasingly important and even fixture in world football and can be ranked among the top derbies/rivalries to watch, especially with Atlético rising to become a serious European force – even playing this derby twice in a space of three years in the Champions League Final. It goes less without saying that this is perhaps now the premier city derby in world football.
We have seen how both teams are set up this season and can conclude that both teams are almost on par in terms of quality, with Madrid having the slightest edge over Atletico. But with the reinforcements to Atletico’s squad and their showings thus far, it is safe to say that Zinedine Zidane and Madrid have their work cut out for them. This is definitely going to be a cracker this season.
Without derbies and rivalries, sports in general would be bland. These matches provide entertainment and especially in Spain which is home to La Liga, the best league in the world, the derbies here are the personification of entertainment and passion for football that no fan would prefer to be told.