This Saturday will see the Derby di Sicilia match take place between fierce rivals Palermo and Catania. Walter Zenga’s men will travel to the north-western side of Sicily to meet up at the Renzo Barbera Stadium which will surely be packed out for this encounter as usual. Catania will try to make it three straight victories over their bitter rivals in a matchup that the Elefantini has traditionally struggled in. The eight Derby di Sicilia matches that have taken place at Serie A level have seen Palermo win two games with the remaining four games ending in draws, but the Rozzazurri have won the last two previous encounters with their first ever win against the Rosanero coming in December 2007’s clash in which Catania won 3-1. That game featured not a single Palermo fan in the stadium as both teams were banned from the other’s stadium for the 2007/08 season due to violent clashes between ultras that lead to the death of policeman Filippo Raciti on February 2, 2007.
The first match-up this season saw Catania again manage to come out on top beating Palermo 2-0 at the Stadio Angelo Massimino with both goals coming in the first half with strikes by the Urugyuan Jorge Andre Martinez and Giuseppe Mascara, with the game not complete without the odd showing of the red card – this time it went to Palermo defender Moris Carrozzieri.
This Derby is definitely up there with all the other great derbies of Italian Football whether it be the Derby della Capitale or the Derby della Mole or the Madoninna Derby, it always has a great fever pitch atmosphere with many Sicilian flags being waved by passionate tifosi. The Pride of Sicily is at stake here, although it doesn’t have quite the same type of history and memorable matches to it’s repertoire, mainly due to the fact that the two sides have been playing in separate divisions for long spells – Catania in Serie B until recently – but nonetheless this derby always provides good entertainment to the typical Calcio fan with tight affairs and fierce aggressive football being played at both ends of the pitch.
It could be said that the Derby di Sicilia is known around the rest of the peninsula for all the wrong reasons, especially when considering the events that took place just over two years ago. The match played that February in 2007 at the Stadio Angelo Massimino was marred by heavy crowd violence during the match and especially off the pitch, where clashes occurred between Catania supporters and the police. The events that transpired on that fateful day led to the death of forty-year-old Raciti, who was killed after he suffered ‘severe liver injuries’ during clashes after the game. The events from this game prompted FIGC Commissioner Luca Pancalli to indefinitely suspend all professional and amateur Football games throughout the country.
The match actually started without the Palermo fans who only managed to arrive at the game ten minutes into the second half because of travel organisation problems. Soon after their arrival the throwing of firecrackers and smoke bombs started, forcing the police to retaliate with the throwing of tear-gas at the ultras section. The match was then abandoned for over forty minutes because the tear gas had gone onto the playing pitch affecting the players. Palermo fans were not found guilty of any direct responsibility in the events.
The consequences affected Catania as they were banned from playing in their stadium for the remainder of the season and had to play the remainder of their home games at a neutral venues, originally behind closed doors (later relaxed to allow fans to attend in the closing stages of the season).
Palermo come into this weekend’s game in fine form of late having been undefeated in their previous five games before succumbing to defeat last weekend against Juventus where David Trezeguet netted his comeback goal after his five-month layoff for knee surgery. Le Aquile currently sit in 9th place in Serie A and need to start to find form again so they can put some sort of purpose and meaning in their season. The Rosanero seem to struggle most away from home where they have only managed two wins and a mere nine goals in 13 games played- something Davide Ballardini will be looking to improve on at least so they can reach the upper echelons of the table.
The Rossoblu current table situation looks like they might evade the drop this year but cannot afford to be too complacent down the stretch. Their survival hopes were given a big boost last weekend when they defeated cellar dwellers Reggina 2-0 thanks to goals scored by two new faces picked at the January Mercato – Ciro Capuano who was signed from Palermo got on the score sheet as did another fresh face, Alessandro Potenza, picked up from Genoa, who netted the winner in the 75th minute giving the Elefantini a much needed three points.
With not that many games left Walter Zenga’s side will need many more wins likes this as defeats could again drag them deeper into the relegation dogfight. Le Aquile will want their fair share of points from now till the end of the season to try to bag at least a UEFA cup place as Europe is not out of contention for the Sicilian outfit.