The first El Gran Derbi of the 2017/2018 LaLiga Santander season between Real Betis and Sevilla FC is undoubtedly one of LaLiga Santander’s greatest clashes.
Set to take place on Saturday, the rivalry between these two clubs from the city of Seville is a derby that is much more than just a game of football.
The Seville derby is not just about the 90 minutes out on the turf, it is a duel that lasts an entire season.
As soon as the fixtures come out in July, the two sets of fans take note of the dates and the city awaits the match days as the biggest sporting occasions of the year.
Few matches in the world divide a city the way this derby does.
The fourth most populous city in Spain lives and breathes football like no other. The atmosphere does not just permeate the stadium.
It is also felt in bars, restaurants, office blocks, out on the street, in schools and universities, because it is a derby for all ages and sexes; a derby for the people of not just Seville, but Spain as a nation.
Since the inception of LaLiga Santander, the rivalry between the two sets of fans means that they constantly keep an eye out for the ups and downs of each other’s other side in preparation of what for them, is without doubt the main event of the year: #ElGranDerbi.
Speaking on the derby in an exclusive interview, was former Sevilla star Frédéric Kanouté, who said “I played in a lot of derbies in London, with West Ham, with Tottenham; but I’ve never seen a derby like the one in Seville”.
“With all that goes surrounding that match, before the match; it’s crazy. And on the day of the match, the heat and the atmosphere is very different to any other match” he went on to say.
It does not matter whether Sevilla’s objective is to achieve a place in the upcoming edition of the Champions League or whether Betis are looking to consolidate their position in LaLiga Santander and scale the table season by season as they seek to regain their status of years gone by. When the Big Derby comes around, the two teams only have one thing on their minds: beating their opponents, making their fans happy and ‘ruling supreme’ in the picturesque city of Seville – at least until the return fixture in the second half of the season.
The fans are preparing for this match like no other during the season. For Seville and its two football clubs, winning the duel on 6 January will be the ideal way to kick off the New Year. The atmosphere inside and outside the stadium is always electric. The long-held and never-ending rivalry between these two teams can be felt out on the pitch and across the entire city. And it will not end with the final whistle. It will last all week, all month, all year.
When #ElGranDerbi starts, the city grinds to a halt. Only the game matters. Seville’s more than 700,000 inhabitants treat the match like a cup final. The streets are empty. The lucky ones are watching the action from the stands. The rest are glued to the television. But not a single soul in Seville misses either of the two crunch games that await them each year and which divide a city that lives for #TheBigDerby.
Just two games short of the halfway point, Sevilla are fifth in the table only two points shy of Real Madrid in fourth, meaning that they are potentially only one result away from leapfrogging into the places rewarded with Champions League football next season. Betis, meanwhile, have amassed 21 points and are midway between the relegation zone and the European spots, allowing one of LaLiga’s legendary teams to breathe easy.
A little history
Sevilla FC was founded in 1890 by a group of British and Spanish businessmen and engineers. It was the first club to be established in the city, followed by their big rivals, Real Betis, in 1907.
The encounters between Seville’s two teams have always been marked by a strong rivalry, ever since they first locked horns in 1909. In LaLiga Santander, the two teams have faced each other on a total of 93 occasions, with Sevilla having taken 43 victories to Betis’s 28, and the other 22 games ending all square. Historically the balance falls in Sevilla’s favour, and the same applies in modern times. In the last ten seasons when they have faced each other in LaLiga Santander, #ElGranDerbi has ended in 11 victories for Sevilla, five draws and four wins for Los Verdiblancos. In those 20 league derbies, Sevilla have scored 34 goals to Betis’s 16, making for a total of 50 at a rate of 2.5 goals a game.
In recent seasons, Sevilla have consolidated their position as one of the big clubs in Spanish and European football, winning three of the last four editions of the Europa League. Real Betis, on the other hand, have experienced relegations and promotions in recent decades. They last achieved promotion to LaLiga Santander in the 2014/15 season and have remained one of Spanish football’s top flight teams since then.