Matchday 10 of Argentina’s Apertura Tournament sees Independiente host Racing Club in what will be the 176th edition of the Avellaneda derby. So rich in history and tradition is this superclásico that it is now considered one of the biggest rivalries in Argentinian football.

The origins
Racing Club owes its existence to a group of workers from the Buenos Aires district of Barracas Sud (now known as Avellaneda), who met to instigate a merger between two of the neighbourhood’s rival clubs, Foot Ball Club Barracas and Colorados Unidos. The decision to join forces was formally taken on 25 March 1903, with the new club naming itself after a French automobile magazine.

Club Atletico Independiente, in contrast, was the brainchild of a group of youngsters who worked in an upmarket Buenos Aires store and were frustrated at not being able to play for the club of the company concerned. The young group felt they had no choice but to become "independent" and create their own club, and so it was that Independiente officially came into being on 25 March 1905, exactly two years after the foundation of Racing.

The first seeds of what would become an enduring enmity were planted in 1907, when Independiente moved to within a few blocks of Racing in Barracas Sud. On 9 June that same year, the two met for the first time in a third division game that the ‘newcomers’ won 3-2 – the winning goal coming from Rosendo Degiorgi, one of the Diablos Rojos’ (Red Devils) founding members. 

Facts and figures
Independiente have by far the superior head-to-head record, racking up 67 wins (279 goals scored) to their rival’s 46 (234 goals) over the course of 175 official games.

Unsurprisingly, the top three scorers in the fixture’s long history all wore the red of Independiente - Arsenio Erico (19 goals), Vicente de la Mata (10) and Ricardo Bochini (9). For La Academia, meanwhile, the most prolific derby scorer was Llamil Simes (8), followed by Omar Corbatta (7), and Juan Carlos Cardenas and Juan Jose Pizzuti (6 each).

The Red Devils can also boast a greater number of titles than their arch-rivals both at national league level (14 to 7) and in international tournaments (15 to 3). Both clubs, however, have earned their status as members of the country’s so-called big-five.

Tales of derbies past
Racing and Independiente almost went down in history as protagonists of the first game of their country’s professional era, with the clubs slated for the opening fixture of the nascent league championship on 31 May 1931. However, at Racing’s request, the fixture was postponed and only played four months later, by which time the tournament had already been settled. That said, the result, a 7-4 victory for La Academia, still made its way into the history books, where it remains the highest-scoring derby between the two.

It was to be sign of things to come for Racing, who went on to dominate the fixture that decade. In November 1940, however, it was the turn of Independiente fans to smile as their heroes recorded a 7-0 triumph – still the biggest winning-margin in the superclásico’s history. The Red Devils were at it again five years later, when they ran out 5-1 winners in the clubs’ first meeting outside Avellaneda. La Academia extracted a measure of revenge in 1949, consigning their opponents to a 5-2 home defeat, the one and only time they have managed to score five times at Independiente’s Estadio Libertadores de America.

The growing importance of the fixture would become even more evident during the 1960s. The 1-1 draw between the teams in November 1961 degenerated into a running battle, with four players dismissed from each side – an ignominious record that stands to this day. There was to be more controversy in 1965 when El Rojo overturned a 2-0 first-half deficit with two disputed second-half penalties. The ensuing protests resulted in five red cards for Racing players, although they managed to cling on for a 2-2 draw despite this numerical inferiority.

I never once lost to them and managed to score goals and play well in those fixtures. What more could I ask for?
Racing legend Ruben Paz

Independiente won their first Campeonato Nacional title in 1967 at the expense of their old foes, who they drubbed 4-0 on the league’s final matchday. There was further joy for the Red Devils in the 1970 Campeonato Metropolitano, when they secured the title by the narrowest of margins thanks to a 3-2 victory at the home of their Avellaneda rivals. It was to prove a precursor of things to come with El Rojo’s sustained dominance in the early 70s finally giving them a superior head-to-head record in 1973.

Another superclásico fondly remembered by Independiente fans took place in mid-1979, as recalled by Ricardo Bochini, a much-loved former playmaker and Rojo idol: “We were 2-0 down and the Racing players got me so wound up I exploded. In the space of 15 minutes I set up three goals and we went on to win 3-2.”

For all that, few derbies can have been as enjoyable for Red Devils fans as that of 22 December 1983, when a 2-0 win on their rivals ground saw them crowned league champions in front of an-already relegated Racing. The subsequent spell outside the top flight must have strengthened Racing’s resolve for revenge because on returning to the Primera in 1986, they embarked on a 16-game unbeaten run against their nemesis.

One man who remembers that sequence fondly is Uruguayan midfielder Ruben Paz. “From my debut with Racing in 1987, I did well in those derbies. We were losing that game 1-0 and I grabbed the equaliser. I never once lost to them and managed to score goals and play well in those fixtures. What more could I ask for?” recalled the former No10, who won one and drew five of his six derby games.

La Academia’s unbeaten run would finally end in 1994 with a 2-0 reverse, and they would have to wait until 1998 to end a 17-year wait for a win on their rival’s ground. Even that did not come easily. Two-nil up after 38 minutes, a suspicious floodlight failure at the Estadio Libertadores led to the game being suspended. When it resumed three days later, the visitors picked up where they left off to record a memorable 3-1 victory.

The rivalry today
Although Independiente finished fourth in the last Clausura championship and have not lost to their rivals since 2005, a year in which they also posted a 4-0 win with the help of a brace from Argentina international Sergio Aguero, they head into this weekend’s fixture 17th in the table and all of 16 points behind leaders Estudiantes. It will also be a baptism of fire for new coach Antonio Mohamed, who only took up the reins at Independiente earlier this week.

Meanwhile Racing, who have had to battle relegation in the last two seasons, are currently 10th with 13 points, seven of which came in their last three outings. Marginal favourites they may be this weekend, but Racing, without a win in their last nine derbies, know only too well that anything can happen in the Avellaneda superclásico.