Sevilla and Betis produce heated encountersThe 2,500 travelling fans will meet near the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium for the two-mile walk south to the district of Heliopolis. Police will watch as they gather by the beautiful mosaic which dominates the street outside a stadium traditionally favoured by the Spanish national side. The mosaic depicts the Sevilla club crest in the centre and it's surrounded by 60 crests of major clubs in Spain and world football who've visited the club.
Police, in vans and on horseback, will give the signal when they are ready to go and the long procession will start towards the home of their city rivals, Real Betis Balompie. Fans will chant and let off flares and fire crackers. A police helicopter will hover above, while residents will watch from their balconies as the febrile sea of red and white Sevillistas marches on.
Saturday night will see the first Seville derby in three years. For many in Spain, it's the truest derby — a cross-city rivalry between clubs of similar size. The derbies in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, the only Spanish cities which are bigger than Seville, are usually one-sided and dominated by the bigger club. It's different in beautiful Seville, Europe's hottest city in more ways than one.
Sevilla were formed in 1905, but their progress was halted when half the team left to form Betis two years later. Both have been league champions once, Sevilla FC in 1946 and Betis in 1935. That's with an FC to denote the British influence in their origins, while Betis have to thank a Dubliner, Patrick O'Connell, for leading them to their only title at a time when Spain was on the brink of social and political meltdown before the civil war.
Sevilla have won more trophies and 37 derbies to Betis' 27. They've have spent 68 years in the top flight to Betis' 47 and they chalked up six trophies between 2006-09 after amassing just four in their entire history beforehand.
Sevilla have provided more Spanish international players than Betis (34-26), but Betis claim they have the more passionate support to go in their bigger stadium. They'll point to the odd 50,000-plus crowd in the second division last year and to enjoying higher than average crowds this season, 39,437 against 35,370.
The verdiblancos (green and whites) came up as champions with the intention of staying up. Four straight wins at the start of the season raised hopes but, typically, Betis promptly lost to a Getafe side who hadn't won a game. That was the first of nine losses in 10 games. Even the notoriously inconsistent Atletico de Madrid had to marvel at Betis' inconsistency.
Betis bemuse. They won three on the trot before last weekend's game at Camp Nou when they became the first team to score there in the league all season. The Andalusians were a joy to watch and deserved praise for attacking Barca; their second goal from Roque Santa Cruz was a delight. El Beti are currently 10th, but will go level on 25 points with Sevilla if they win.
Betis were traditionally the team of Seville's working class, with their home by the river docks compared with Sevilla's at the posher end of town. On my last visit to the derby there, every taxi driver was proud to be 'Betico', but the demographics have blurred.
The clubs also have much in common, like madcap and corrupt former presidents.
"The rivalry is still fierce," says betico Alejandro, who was one of the few travelling fans in Camp Nou last week and will be going to the derby. "It's still very intense. Families are divided about whom they support; so are people who work side by side. You don't get that as much between Madrid and Barcelona fans because they play 600 kilometres apart."
The rivalry has changed, though.
"It had to calm down after a bottle was thrown at a Sevilla manager (Juande Ramos was knocked unconscious in 2007 and Betis had to play three games behind closed doors) and then after Puerta," adds Alejandro. That's Antonio Puerta, the Sevilla defender who died during a game in 2007, aged 22. It wasn't just the Sevillistas who mourned the death of the young sportsman - the entire Real Betis team were present at the funeral. The tragedy helped restore some calm and respect to a rivalry that had become dangerous.
"The two presidents did not help," adds Alejandro. "They stirred things."
Seville's Jose Maria Del Nido and Betis' Manuel Ruiz de Lopera were high profile and outspoken individuals who hated not just each other but the clubs they headed.
In 1998, Lopera had been accused of paying primas (incentives) to Albacete players to get a result against Sevilla and stop them being promoted. That same year, Betis broke the world transfer record when they paid £22 million for the Brazilian Denilson. No, not the Arsenal one.
In December, Del Nido was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for his involvement in the embezzlement of public funds in Marbella. He has appealed and will escape jail — for now.
Lopera, meanwhile, sold Betis for just 18 million euros in 2010 after fan protests. The low price was in part because of their 85m euro debts, that and the fact he was facing jail himself for fraud. The sale went through a week before he was charged.
The players didn't set a better example. In 1999, four Sevilla players were arrested after a bar-room brawl. They claimed in testimonies that they had been taunted by Betis fans and decided that direct action was the best solution. One fan ended up with a broken jaw, with the Sevilla players justifying their actions because "they were beticos."
More than a game? It is in Seville.