For the fiercely independent Catalunya region of Spain, FC Barcelona is the billboard for an aspirant nation's ambition. Thus, it makes sense that their most hated rivals represent their governing nation. Real Madrid has traditionally been the marquee club in both Spain and world soccer, but with the current edition of Barcelona competing for a place in history to complement their ever-expanding trophy case, the rivalry between Los Merengues (Madrid) and the Blaugrana (Barcelona) transcends a mere competition between the two biggest, most talented teams in sport. For the supporters they represent, Barcelona-Real Madrid is a metaphor for competing cultures. Watch highlights from Real Madrid-Barcelona matches
Bring it on!
Over the years, sports teams and athletes have built storied histories that pit neighbor against neighbor, father against son, fist against face. Here's a look at 20 of the world's greatest sports rivalries. And before you get too worked up, we limited our selections to one per sport.
MLB: Yankees vs. Red Sox
You can trace its origins back to the sale of Babe Ruth in 1919 or, if you prefer, the pennant race of 1904. The Sox and Yanks have given us the pennant races of '48 and '49, Bucky Expletivin' Dent, Aaron Boone's unlikely walkoff, and Boston's impossible comeback in the 2004 ALCS. And as with any good blood feud, there's been plenty of on-field violence, including Pedro Martinez's judo-toss of Don Zimmer and any number of brawls involving Carlton Fisk. While the Red Sox were failing to win the title from 1918 to 2004, the Yanks over that span were hoarding 26 championships.
NBA: Celtics vs. Lakers
When the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers get together in the Finals, you get: The Memorial Day Massacre; Kevin McHale clotheslining Kurt Rambis; the Junior Skyhook Game; Magic and Larry; The Balloon Game. To name only a few classic moments.
College basketball: Duke vs. North Carolina
If it's not the best rivalry in American sports, it may be the most unique. The teams are consistently among the best in their sport. The campuses are all of eight miles apart. The games are among the most hyped of each college basketball season and they rarely disappoint, and frequently determine the ACC champion. The imagination and enthusiasm of the Cameron Crazies at Duke (pictured) adds to the lore of the battle for Tobacco Road bragging rights. Watch highlights from the Duke-UNC rivalry
Tennis: Navratilova vs. Evert
From 1973 to 1988 Martina Navratilova (left) and Chris Evert (right) dominated women's tennis, facing each other 80 times, 60 of which were for tournament titles. Evert faced Navratilova in 14 Grand Slam finals, losing 10. Navratilova has a 43-37 edge in their head-to-head meetings. Watch highlights of Evert and Navratilova
Bowling: Anthony vs. Roth
Earl Anthony versus Mark Roth was a study in contrasting styles: laser accuracy against raw power. In the late 1970s, Anthony was player of the year in '74, '75 and '76, while Roth took the title 1977-79. They each accumulated a staggering number of wins. Roth collected 15 titles in '78 and '79 alone, finishing his career with 34 tour titles. Anthony won 43 tour titles, including 10 Majors, over the course of his career. Anthony was voted to the PBA Hall of Fame in 1981. Roth was inducted in 1987.
NASCAR: Yarborough vs. Allison
Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough are most noted for their on-track skirmish in 1979. On the last lap of the Daytona 500, Donnie Allison (background, red firesuit) and Cale Yarborough (left, standing) wrecked, got out of their cars and started yelling at each other. "I got out of the car and (Yarborough) started beating on my fist with his nose," Bobby Allison has famously said. They were competitive on the track, too. Yarborough won three straight titles and Allison won one. Yarborough had the edge in wins, too, in races in which both appeared. They went head to head 438 times. Yarborough finished ahead of Allison 250 times while Allison held the edge 188 times. In those races, Yarborough won 78; Allison 45.
College football: Ohio State vs. Michigan
The Michigan and Ohio State rivalry has a storied past. The rivalry, which began with a football game in 1897, has seen some amazing moments, most notably during the "10-Year War". From 1969 to 1978, legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes faced legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, who had served as an assistant coach under Hayes. Schembechler won the war with a 5-4-1 record against Hayes. Watch highlights from the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry
Women's basketball: Tennessee vs. UConn
Since 1987 the UConn Huskies (coached by Geno Auriemma, right) and Tennessee Lady Vols (coached by Pat Summitt, left) have dominated women's basketball. The teams haven't faced each other in the regular season since 1997 and the rivarly may dampen with the retirement of Summitt, but it will still be there, especially around tournament time. UConn has faced and defeated Tennessee four times in the National Championship game.
Surfing: Slater vs. Irons
You could argue it was the ascension of a young Andy Irons to the core of surfing's elite that helped persuade Kelly Slater (pictured) to forgo retirement in 2003 and return to the sport's professional world tour. The blonde, shaggy haired Irons would dominate Slater -- and his six world championships -– and defend his title at the Pipe Masters on Oahu's North Shore during the winter of '03-'04. With that, two of surfing's most influentual innovators and stylists became bitter but spectacular rivals. Sadly, the intensity, epic battles and big aerials waned as Slater returned to surfing greatness (winning four more championships) and Irons descended into a rip current of self-destructive drinking and drug use. Irons was found dead in a hotel room in a Dallas suburb in 2010. He was 32. Watch footage of Kelly Slater and Andy Irons
Horse racing: Affirmed vs. Alydar
Arguably the best head-to-head rivalry in the rich history of horse racing, the two chestnut colts raced against each other 10 times, with Affirmed winning seven. When Affirmed won the 1978 Triple Crown, Alydar finished second in all three races -- by a combined margin of less than two lengths. That included a heart-stopping finish at the Belmont, where Affirmed, with 18-year-old Steve Cauthen aboard, collected the third jewel by a neck (pictured). Watch the classic duels between Affirmed and Alydar
Swimming: Thorpe vs. Phelps
In what was billed as the "Race of the Century" in the 2004 Athens Olympics - the 200m free - Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe (left) took home his fifth gold medal leaving Dutch star Pieter van den Hoogenband and American Michael Phelps (right) in his wake. Thorpe would retire shortly after, while Phelps went on in 2008 to win an unprecedented eight Olympic gold medals in Beijing. Watch highlights of Ian Thorpe and Michael Phelps
Boxing: Frazier vs. Ali
Muhammad Ali's racial taunts of Joe Frazier coupled with the social unrest in America regarding civil rights and Vietnam turned this feud into a powder keg. They fought three times. Frazier won the first in 1971, handing Ali his first career loss — though it was Ali's first fight since 1967 after his heavyweight title was stripped from him (and his boxing license suspended) for refusing induction into the Army. Ali won the rematch in 1974, and the two fought again in 1975's Thrilla in Manila. It was the only fight of the three that did not go the distance as Frazier's corner did not let him come out for the 15th round. The rivalry continued to flare after the two had retired, but when Frazier died in November 2011, Ali said of his rival, "The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration." Watch classic fights between Frazier and Ali
Indy car: Andretti vs. Foyt
A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti (pictured) became natural rivals in open wheel racing with both dominating auto racing. Beginning in the 1960s, the two faced off numerous times in the Indy 500 as well as the Champ car circuit. In the late '60s and early '70s, both won the Indy 500, the Daytona 500 and the 24 Hours of Daytona. They even left their Indy driving careers around the same time — Foyt in 1993 and Andretti a year later. But while they were rivals, it was based in admiration between the two. "You could trust A.J., always," Andretti told the Associated Press in 2007. "He was the toughest guy and you wouldn't get anything from him, but you could trust him wheel to wheel like no other."
NHL: Canadiens vs. Bruins
The Canadiens and Bruins have faced each other more than any other two teams in the NHL. In 1955, a fight between Montreal's Maurice "Rocket" Richard and Bruin Hal Laycoe led to Boston police trying to arrest the Canadien after the game before Bruins management intervened. Richard's harsh suspension by the NHL also led to riots in Montreal. The rivalry gained intensity again in 2011 after a game between the two that featured six fights, a goalie fight between netminders Carey Price and Tim Thomas, and a total of 187 penalty minutes. A month later, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara checked Canadien Max Pacioretty into the players' bench glass, knocking the Hab unconcious and breaking his neck. Chara wasn't suspended or fined for the incident. Watch the Canadiens and Bruins fight through the years
Rugby: Australia vs. New Zealand
If there’s a center to the rugby world, it's the middle of the Tasman Sea – the 1,250 mile divide between New Zealand and Australia. The nations co-hosted the first Rugby World Cup (1987) and are one-two in the International Rugby Board's rankings, though the tension between the All Blacks and Wallabies rests on more than a timeline and formula output. Cultural similarities have bread athletic contempt, a divide that has translated to the pitch. New Zealand has won 99 of the nations' 146 rugby union matches, while Australia has taken 93 of 125 in rugby league.
Running: Coe vs. Ovett
Britons Sebastian Coe (pictured, front), Steve Ovett (middle) and Steve Cram dominated middle-distance running throughout the 1980s taking home a combined seven Olympic medals in the 800m and 1500m in the 1980 and 1984 Olympic games. But it was Coe and Ovett that traded the World Record title for the mile five times between 1979 and 1985. To this day Ovett still holds the two-mile record in the U.K. Watch race highlights of Coe and Ovett
Golf: Nicklaus vs. Palmer
They dominated golf in the 1960s and no Sunday was complete unless Jack and Arnie were battling it out on the links. Whether it was packed galleries off the greens or families glued to their television sets, this duo singlehandedly made golf a bonanza for television ad execs. With their combined 25 majors and unforgettable playoff duel in the 1962 U.S. Open, Nicklaus and Palmer will forever remain one of golf's enduring rivalries.
NFL: Packers vs. Bears
This NFC North rivalry holds the title as the league's longest rivalry, with the match-up dating back to 1921. Both squads have met in the playoffs as well with the Packers winning the 2011 NFC title game en route to a Super Bowl run. But Chicago still holds the historic edge with a 92-87-6 record over Green Bay.
Cricket: India vs. Pakistan
Definitely no love lost here. India and Pakistan have fought three major wars, making for heated exchanges when they've faced off in the field of sports — most notably the eight times they've competed against each other in the Cricket World Cup. The Indians hold a 8-0 record against their arch-rivals in those contests, with an estimated 1 billion people tuning in to watch some matches.