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With most of the peninsula focused on the Milan derby this weekend with the front runners taking on their second place rivals for the Scudetto, it would be easy to forget about another derby taking place that is just as important for the parties involved. The Derby della Sicilia between Palermo and Catania is second to none in terms of rivalry and passion. While most of Serie A may focus on the more glamorous matchup between Milan and Inter, an entire island’s inhabitants will be fixated on who is crowned the ‘Kings of Sicily’.

Finding themselves at opposite ends of the island, it was only natural that the two cities would become fierce opponents in the calcio world. The very first meeting between the two sides came all the way back in the 1910′s when both clubs were listed under different monikers while playing in the Lipton Cup - a tournament that featured solely Southern Italian teams. After those initial occurrences, the two teams would not meet officially until 1935 in a Coppa Italia match that finished in Catania’s favor, 1-0. One year later, Palermo and Catania played each other for the first time in the official Italian league, albeit in Serie B. From there on out, the rivalry would become a permanent fixture in Italian football with 79 matches played between them.

For many of those games, the derby has been played in second or third tier of Italian football. However, when Catania earned promotion to Serie A in 2006 to join their cousins from across the island, the Sicilian derby took on a new meaning and renewed passion amongst the teams and fan bases. The chance to claim the “best of Sicily” title would be definitive with both teams in the top flight.

Sicilians are known for their great passion whether it be food, women, politics or wine. As a natural byproduct of such sentiment, the fans of Palermo and Catania stand behind their team with great vigor and vehemence - especially when the two meet. As with any derby, there have been clashes between the two fan bases. Yet, the Sicilians have rarely produced acts of violence against each other. The most infamous incident occurred on February 2, 2007, when Catania fans rioted and clashed with police officers outside the Stadio Angelo Massimino in Catania, resulting in the death of police officer Filippo Raciti. The terrible episode was an aberration from a long past of passion without violence. Sunday’s match will be the first time Palermo fans will be allowed to travel to Catania to watch the derby since that horrible day.

Historically, the Rosanero and Rossazzuri have  always maintained an even affair when each they meet. The all-time record between the two in Serie A echoes that fact: 13 games, four wins for Palermo, four wins for Catania and five draws. No matter the circumstances surrounding the clubs’ respective seasons at that particular moment, the derby almost becomes a season within itself - setting aside league form altogether. A win in the derby can be the icing on the cake of a good season, or it could be the saving grace of a year filled with disappointment.

It is only fitting, then, that on the 80th meeting between the two clubs and parity in Serie A, Palermo and Catania find themselves mired in disappointing seasons with a derby to to decide the ultimate judgment. Palermo started off  the year with dreams of a Champions League berth, while Catania hoped to improve on their best season ever in Serie A. With just eight games remaining, Palermo are desperately trying to qualify for Europe while Catania are fighting for top flight survival.

Catania can take comfort in the fact that the Massimino has been a fortress for the Elefanti especially when playing Palermo. The Rosanero have only garnered one victory in Catania during their time in Serie A - that coming on that fateful day back in 2007. Catania could use a win as a catalyst towards salvation in the final eight games. Meanwhile, Palermo will hope to build off of the unexpected success against league leaders Milan after a terrible run of losses in addition to their derby win earlier in the season.

The Derby della Sicilia may not be as alluring as the one being played a day earlier, first place will not be on the line and the players are perhaps not as well-known. Yet, Palermo and Catania will battle for stakes that are just as important in their own right along with players who know just how important a victory means to the team and city. Furthermore, Palermo and Catania will be playing for a chance to be called the “Kings of Sicily”.

  • Ted

    Pastore will grab another hat trick!

  • bucci

    forza messina! haha no, im just glad that sicily has the limelight on these ties. i hope to see a great game

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