Often overlooked when compared to other major European scenes, French football is full of quality, passion and some intense rivalries. It is one of the most successful breeding grounds for young stars to prove their quality as well as a place for veterans to enjoy one last taste of success. With such a clash of styles, it provides derby matches a chance to broadcast French football’s eclectic style to wider worlds. Some derbies are fierce clashes for local pride whilst others see some of Europe’s biggest clubs clash for national bragging rights. But what are the top French football derbies to watch?
What are the 6 biggest rivalries in French football?
Lille vs. Lens (Derby du Nord)
In Northern France, you will not find two clubs with more contrasting fortunes than Lille and Lens. RC Lens have a rich and successful history in Ligue 1 whilst Lille have steadily risen to become one of France’s most consistent outfits. With less than 40km separating the two sides, there are fierce rivalries between both players and fans making it one of the hottest derbies in French football.
It’s a battle that stops many in the North of France and has become one of the most anticipated clashes in Ligue Un over the past two decades. With Lille now having proven themselves to be championship material and Lens looking to establish their place once again as a recurring presence in the top flight, these clashes look set to remain exhilarating matches for years to come.
Lyon vs. Saint Etienne (Derby Rhone-Alpine)
There are few local derbies in French football which are more hotly anticipated than the Derby Rhone-Alpine between Lyon & Saint Etienne. These perennial Ligue 1 sides have perhaps the most heated local rivalry in French football and both clubs never want to cede a loss to the other.
Both teams are virtually level in terms of wins against each other in over 110 clashes in the past century. With the stands always in swathes of blue red, white or green, you will not hear a more raucous crowd than when these two sides come together. Lyon may have been the more successful of the two sides in recent memory but Saint Etienne always provide strong competition in one of Europe’s fiercest local derbies.
Nantes vs. Rennes (Derby Breton)
Whilst the Breton derby could also apply to smaller sides such as Lorient, Guingamp or Brest, it’s the clash between Rennes and Nantes that most people focus on. These two sides are the biggest in the region and are often very closely matched.
Rennes have risen to become one of the strongest sides in France whilst Nantes has a rich history and following that is almost unmatched through Brittany. When these two sides clash, expect a fiery occasion with vocal fans hoping for a victory to boost their fight within the upper reaches of Ligue 1.
Nice vs. Monaco (Derby de la Cote D’Azur)
The only entry on our list of French football rivalries that spans two countries, there is hardly a more glamorous setting for a rivalry than the one involving Nice and Monaco. The rivals on the Mediterranean coast are always good for putting on a show that has grown in spectacle over the past couple of decades.
Nice has proven themselves to be a top side in Ligue 1 and Monaco’s rich history backs their prowess in years gone by. With the clubs’ reputations attracting top talents to both sides, it is always a fascinating match to watch unfold whenever the two sides meet in the league.
Lyon vs Marseille (Chocs de Olympique)
With both clubs enjoying the Olympique prefix, it’s not surprising that Lyon and Marseille have developed a rivalry in recent years. Both clubs have often found themselves in title contention meaning any advantage could prove huge come the end of the season.
You will often see top stars in action as both teams field some of the biggest names in French football. With both teams enjoying dedicated fan bases, the Chocs de Olympique is one of the best rivalries anywhere in French football.
PSG vs. Marseille (Le Classique)
It is easily considered the biggest match in French football as PSG clash with Marseille in a battle of national supremacy. Both clubs sport some of the biggest fanbases in France and this means that each game is a sell-out no matter where it is hosted.
The historic North vs South rivalry in France is always a tense affair in any forms and it is only further intensified when titles or cups are on the line. PSG are a club who boast some of the biggest stars in the game today whilst Marseille also look to prove they are still a worthy title contender. Always expect fireworks when these two clubs face against each other.
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