Liverpool FC’s Biggest Rivalries

With 50 major trophies including 19 league and 6 Champions League titles, Liverpool is one of the most decorated clubs in the world. While they met friends and allies along the road so that they would never walk alone, The Reds have some historic rivalries with local clubs and abroad.  Here are some of these stories from its emergence to where things stand currently.

Everton

There is no better place to start. Liverpool v Everton is a Merseyside derby between the two biggest clubs in Liverpool. For some, the recent dominance by Liverpool might be a put-off, but as long as Everton keep beating the odds and fines to stay in the Premier League, this fixture will continue to be the longest-running top-flight derby.

Why are they rivals?

This one is easy to answer. There is less than a mile between their two stadiums – Anfield and Goodison Park.

How did the rivalry start?

But that didn’t mean it was all fire from the get-go. In fact, Everton used to play at Anfield until they purchased England’s first major stadium in 1892. Yet that development was only a friction between the higher bosses of the two clubs.

As Stanley Park is the only notable place situated between the homes of the two tradition-laden clubs, there was a friendly tone about this matchup for almost a century. Despite the battle to ascendancy on the pitch, it was normal to see mixed sections of fans when the two teams met in the mid-1980s.

“Friendly Derby” was coined as a moniker for the tie until things suddenly took another direction. Since the Premier League launched back in 1992, no other fixture has seen more red cards. In modern times, this spirit is also present between fans. After all, it’s so hard to stay friends for long when you’re competing as neighbors.

Biggest Games

13 October 1894

Everton 3-0 Liverpool

This is their first-ever official meeting in a competitive game. Everton won comfortably in their then-new home Goodison Park. Tom McInnes scored the first goal of the Merseyside derby. A month later, Everton also avoided defeat in their first travel to Anfield as an opposing team. The Blues finished second in the First Division that season where Liverpool got relegated.

18 September 1948

Everton 1-1 Liverpool

With 78,299 in attendance for the First Division game, this is the record number of fans in the league match of the Merseyside derby.

1984 League Cup final, 1986 and 1989 FA Cup finals

Liverpool lifted the trophy in each of the three cup finals the two clubs met, with the last of which after extra-time in the 1989 FA Cup final at Wembley.

20 February 2021

Liverpool 0-2 Everton

After a 22-game unbeaten run in the derby, Everton ended the run in Anfield under closed doors in the COVID-era. It was also their first derby win since 2010.

Played for both

The last player to wear both kits was Abel Xavier, most known for his costly and controversial handball in Portugal’s semi-final defeat to France in Euro 2000. Xavier also has the distinctive honour of being the only man to feature for both clubs in the derby in the very same season. Nick Barmby also made the switch from Goodison to Anfield.

David Johnson and Peter Beardsley are the only ones to score for both sides in this derby. There has been no transfer between the clubs for over two decades. Rafael Benitez, who was Liverpool’s coach in that memorable Istanbul Champions League final, had a brief stint at Everton in 2021.

Manchester United

The Northwest Derby is an inter-city fixture that has a bigger place in English football than Liverpool v Everton. Although both have rivalries with neighbotring clubs Everton and Manchester City, respectively, their meeting is the biggest date in the calendar for both sets of fans.

Why are they rivals?

This also has to do with proximity. The fixture is rich with historic economic and industrial rivalry. If we look at the financial numbers and success stories, they are among the best clubs in the world.

And that is also added to the equation of the competitiveness level between the clubs. With 67 trophies in total, these are the joint-most decorated clubs in England.

How did the rivalry start?

The Industrial Revolution was the time that merged with the emergence of their rivalry. Tensions arose when a Manchester Ship Canal was constructed whereas the Liverpool politicians opposed the move vehemently.

As part of Lancashire County, the two clubs developed a strong regional rivalry. It is also magnified with players like Wayne Rooney, who developed a strong distaste for Liverpool having played at both Everton and Manchester United. Liverpool’s manager Jurgen Klopp once stated that they would’ve signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic if he didn’t play for the Red Devils.

Biggest Games

28 April, 1894

Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United

Their first meeting was a very decisive Football League test match at Ewood Park. Liverpool got promoted to First Division thanks to this victory, although they finished bottom-placed at the end of the season.

21 May, 1977

Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool

This is the first cup final between the two clubs. Liverpool were playing for a treble season after being confirmed champions in the league while they were looking forward to a European Cup final four days later. But it was United who clinched the cup with all three goals of the night came in the space of five minutes.

14 March, 2009

Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool

In one of Liverpool’s memorable games at Old Trafford, Fernando Torres helped them to a special night at the ground of their fiercest rivals. It was Manchester United’s heaviest defeat in all competitions for 17 years. Yet, at the end of the season, United won the league for the third successive time and reached Liverpool’s record of 18 titles.

11 February, 2012

Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool

In a game that will forever be remembered for the wrong reason, Luis Suarez refused to shake Patrice Evra’s hand ahead of kickoff because of the incident that had him an eight-game suspension. The Frenchman later celebrated the win provoking Liverpool’s striker. Nine years later, Mohamed Salah scored a hattrick as United suffered their worst home defeat since 1936.

2015-16

Liverpool 3-1 Manchester United (on aggregate)

The first European meeting of the clubs was played in a two-legged Europa League Round of 16 tie in 2015. Liverpool kept their two-goal home advantage in the return leg to secure their passage to the next round. But Klopp’s men lost the final that year to the competition’s kings, Sevilla.

5 March, 2023

Liverpool 7-0 Manchester United

Another one of the recent meetings dominated by Liverpool as Man United suffered their joint-biggest defeat at the hands of their close rivals. It’s recorded as Liverpool’s heaviest win in English football. Having won the League Cup a week before, Erik ten Hag’s side succumbed to a fully-spirited Anfield experience.

Played for both

Since Phil Chisnall signed for Liverpool from Manchester United in 1964, there has been no transfer between the two clubs, which shows the extent of their deep-rooted rivalry. The Manchester club resisted Liverpool’s offer and the Argentine’s protest to not allow defender Gabriel Heinze to break this barrier. Paul Ince played for both United and Liverpool, with the reds signing the midfielder from Inter Milan

Michael Owen, who spent five years at Real Madrid and Newcastle United since leaving Liverpool, is the last player to feature for both clubs.

Chelsea

This one is different. A Liverpool v Chelsea rivalry started due to some controversial games when both clubs were aiming to become Europe’s best.

Why are they rivals?

You’ll not find a historical and geographical rivalry between the clubs. This is a perfect example of some heated games opening doors for a brand-new rivalry. It was all about the ghost goal.

How did the rivalry start?

Luis Garcia. The Spanish winger scored a goal that would’ve been chalked off in the VAR era against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final. The subsequent comments by a certain Jose Mourinho and the highly-fought fixtures right after this made this one of the biggest games in English football.

Biggest Games

11 May, 2003

Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool

Gerrard Houllier and Claudio Ranieri hoped to book a Champions League berth when the two teams clashed in the final game of the 2002-03 Premier League season. Jesper Gronkjaer scored the winner which is famously called the “£1bln goal”.Chelsea winning that game and a Champions League ticket resulted in Roman Abrahmovic’s takeover only a month later.

3 May, 2005

Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea

With Chelsea’s fate changed under their new owner and Liverpool basking to return to European glory, their semi-final tie two years later had a completely different atmosphere. The first game ended goalless at Stamford Bridge with only three shots on target either side.

The all-important goal came early in Anfield with Luis Garcia scored with a chipped effort, although it didn’t really pass the goalline. Liverpool went on to win the competition beating AC Milan with one of the greatest, if not the greatest, comebacks in football history.

Prior to that in(famous) night, Chelsea won the League Cup beating Liverpool in a thrilling five-goal final. Including another Champions League semi-final three years later, they met multiple times in successive seasons at that era.

Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher admitted how Chelsea used to get under their nerves in one conversation with Chelsea great Frank Lampard: “You guys surpassed Everton and Manchester United as our main rival for a brief spell”.

Played for both

Unlike the previous two cases, there is no blocking factor for in-house transfers here apart from the thinking of not strengthening a competitor in the same league. Fernando Torres is the most high-profile transfer with his mid-season shift to the Blues.

Steven Gerrard was close to doing the same right when their rivalry peaked, but the transfer failed to materialize as their captain ended up leaving Anfield as an all-time favourite with a move to MLS side LA Galaxy in 2015.

Manchester City

This is the most recent rivalry involving Liverpool. Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp had a previous history in Germany when the Spaniard spent three seasons coaching Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich. In England, their battles for the Premier League crown left a huge mark and it’s considered to be one of the greatest rivalries.

Why are they rivals?

Although they’re inter-city clubs, that reasoning is more tuned to Liverpool’s rivalry with Manchester United. This one is a recent phenomenon with the teams finishing top-two in successive seasons of the Premier League.

How did the rivalry start?

It starts with the introduction of two coaches to English football right next to each other. Guardiola taking over at Manchester City after a brief hiatus. And, then, Klopp followed in his footsteps with a move to Liverpool.

Before Mikel Arteta revamped Arsenal’s title dreams, the two clubs created their own league within the Premier League since the mid-2010s.

In this period alone, the two clubs registered six of the eight highest Premier League points tally since the competition has 38 rounds of games.

Biggest Games

1976-77 First Division season

This was the first time the two clubs were involved in a title race together. Liverpool finished top of the pile with a single-point difference from the surprise package Manchester City. The Reds ended the season without a home defeat as their 2-1 Anfield win against Man City was a big factor in the destination of the title.

2013-14 Premier League season

With Sir Alex Fergusen’s retirement, Manchester United lost their grip on the throne of English football. As such, the following season sees Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool and Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City fighting to be the successor for the hegemony alongside Mourinho’s Chelsea.

It was one of the most competitive title races with all three teams having spells at the top of the table. Liverpool missed a chance at ending a nearly three decades title drought. Manchester City came back from a two-point deficit with two games to spare.

2017-18 Season

The time when Liverpool v Man City peaked with four excellent games of football in the Premier League and Champions League. First, Man City recorded their biggest win against the Reds with a 5-0 scoreline in a game Sadio Mane sent off with a reckless challenge.

Liverpool got the points in a seven-goal thriller in the return fixture before their Champions League matchup in the quarter-final stage. Klopp’s side also triumphant on this one with an aggregate score of 5-1.

Manchester City won the league title with a top-flight record 100 points that season while Liverpool reached the continental final.

2019-20 season

Another season, another close title race. Liverpool ended up with 99 points, the second-best tally in the league’s history, to finally win a first Premier League title. The City team gave a “guard of honour” for Liverpool before thumping them 4-0 at the Etihad.

Until 2022-23, when Arsenal posed the biggest challenge, Liverpool stayed Manchester City’s rival for the title. There is a huge chance of a three-way title race coming back in England with all three teams in contention in the middle of the season.

Played for both

Current Chelsea attacker Raheem Sterling is the last player to complete a transfer between the two clubs. Having missed out on the title as a Liverpool player, he won it four times with Manchester City since his move back in 2015.

Of the current two squads, Cityzens’ backup goalkeeper Scott Carson is the only one to play for both of these clubs.

Real Madrid

You can also make the case for some more local rivalries with Lancashire club Leeds United as well as against the other top-six clubs Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. But let’s leave it as that and conclude with stories that involve two European powerhouses.

Why are they rivals?

European glory. As recent as 2022, the clubs competed in the Champions League final. While Real Madrid is at their own pace thanks to their early dominance, Liverpool are among the other clubs to win the competition multiple times.

How did the rivalry start?

In the middle of the three European finals between the clubs, there were lots of controversies over Sergio Ramos’ challenge on Mohamed Salah which caused an early substitution for the Egyptian star. It was Liverpool who lifted the trophy when the clubs first met in a European Cup final in 1981.

Biggest Games

27 May, 1981

Liverpool 1-0 Real Madrid

Bob Paisley became the first manager to win the biggest European competition for three years in a row by beating the mighty Real Madrid in the final. The all-important goal came late in the game from the unlikeliest of sources, left-back Alan Kennedy.

26 May, 2018

Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool

The most memorable game between the clubs had everything. Lorius Karius’ glaring mistake, Gareth Bale’s exquisite overhead kick and Ramos on Salah. It was Real Madrid’s turn of Champions League triplets.

The Spanish capital city’s side was the first club to win three titles back-to-back after the 1970s Bayern Munich.

28 May, 2022

Real Madrid 1-0 Liverpool

Salah particularly looked to avenge that defeat and the manner he left the game with strong words in the pre-game interview. But Vinicius Jr. was the only goal scorer on the night as Real Madrid clinched their 14th Champions League.

Played for both

This part is mostly dominated by players who went on to play for the Whites after an initial spell at Liverpool. From Steve McManaman to the likes of Xabi Alonso and Michael Owen, Real Madrid poached former Liverpool greats.

On the other side of the equation, Fabinho is a standout name. He couldn’t make it into Real Madrid’s first-team, but he was a valuable cog in Klopp’s system as he won everything with Liverpool.

AC Milan

Only the aforementioned Real Madrid has more Champions League title than these two teams. The former Serie A giants won it seven times, whereas Liverpool lifted the trophy on six separate occasions like Bayern Munich.

Why are they rivals?

Istanbul has the answers. The clash of the two teams presented one of the most famous football games to ever be played.

How did the rivalry start?

In a comeback that is still talked about in a nostalgic manner, Liverpool reversed a three-goal half-time lead to win the Champions League on a penalty shootout. Milan held their own when the two clubs met again in a Champions League final a couple of seasons later, but that was only a footnote.

Biggest Games

25 May, 2005

Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan (Liverpool won 3-2 on penalties)

In the blink of an eye, what could’ve been the most one-sided Champions League final turned into the most iconic. Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan were in the supremacy before the half-time break with a 3-0 lead thanks to Paolo Maldini’s early goal, a star-studded midfield and a potent striking partnership upfront.

But with Gerrard reducing the deficit ten minutes after the restart, the story changed. The skipper was heard in his attempt to fire up the crowd after his goal that gave The Reds a lifeline. Barely six minutes passed when the scoreline reads 3-3.

Liverpool lifted the cup after a penalty shootout win with Jerzey Dudek the star of the show as his antics played a big role in three missed attempts by Milan players.

23 May, 2007

AC Milan 2-1 Liverpool

Two years later, they met again in a Champions League final. This time in Athens with both Ancelotti and Benitez still coaching the sides. Filippo Inzaghi scored a brace that showed his instinct in front of the goal, but it was a final that had no fanfare compared to the event in Turkey.

Played for both

You will be hard-pressed to find a player who enjoyed his spell at Milan and Liverpool. Mario Balotelli had a better time in his homeland, but he’s associated with Liverpool’s difficult times. Fernando Torres had the exact opposite problem. Divock Origi is the most recent player to have played for both teams, having joined on a free transfer when his contract at LFC expired.

Conclusion

For a club of Liverpool’s stature, the rivalry comes from every corner. As discussed, Manchester United can be counted as their biggest rival, all things considered. But we shouldn’t forget about the one matchup that has been played every season since 1962, Liverpool v Everton.