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Big Blue, Australia’s national derby

Roar Guru
24th January, 2013
56

There have been some fantastic rivalries and derby encounters throughout the history of Australian football. From the National Soccer League era, to the refurbished A-League competition, we’ve witnessed some classic encounters.

In the A-League’s eighth season, we’ve seen numerous clubs build hostilities with their comparative foes.

Whether it is the F3 derby between Newcastle and Central Coast or the Victorian, South Australian divide which sees Victory lock horns with Adelaide, they’ve all played an important role in the competition’s identity.

The cross-town rivalries – while still in its infant stages – have certainly added a sense of excitement and theatre to the competition.

The Melbourne derby is continuing to thrive each season, not only on the pitch, but also off it. The atmosphere, tension and drama generated at these fixtures are rather unique; a sight which could easily rival many football matches in European and South American leagues. The city’s battle for supremacy has yielded a great advertisement for the competition.

However the Melbourne derby, in conjunction with the newly established Sydney version, while great for the A-League, was somewhat manufactured by the evolution of the competition’s franchise policy.

However the rivalry between Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC goes far beyond the eight-year history of the A-League.

It dates back to over 100 years of hostilities between the nation’s largest and most powerful cities.

Melburnians and Sydneysiders have never seen eye to eye on many issues, whether it be on a political basis, in a sporting contest, or the never-ending debate of which city is the superior.

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The enmity between the two cities has been evident for many generations, and it will continue for many more to come.

For these reasons, the ‘Big Blue’ clash, also known as the city derby, between Australia’s two biggest football clubs – and markets – is the biggest encounter in Australian football.

Similarly to the Derby d’Italia between Inter and Juventus, the El Clásico between Real Madrid and Barcelona or the distinguished match-up between Manchester United and Liverpool, the Big Blue rivalry sets the tone for Australia’s city-based derby.

The now annual Australia Day clash is etched as a new tradition between the two great foes and this Saturday’s fixture is set to be one of the most highly anticipated games in the A-League’s history.

It will be the first time Italian luminary Alessandro Del Piero visits Melbourne and follows hot on the heels of his four-goal exhibition against the besieged Wellington Phoenix last weekend.

The game has officially sold out AAMI Park, an arena which fosters a strong case for being the best football stadium in the country.

The occasion is set to be a thriller. A fervent atmosphere is anticipated, not only for the arrival of Del Piero and his Sky Blues teammates, but for the rejuvenated Melbourne Victory, a club which has risen from the ashes under the tutelage of Ange Postecoglou, seemingly en route for a serious tilt at this season’s championship.

On this occasion, it’s difficult to go past Victory, given their recent run of form, and resurgence under Ange this season. Playing at home, in front of a full-house in navy blue, the hosts are expected to seize the city’s bragging rights.

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However, when assessing Sydney, newly signed striker Joel Griffiths could very well cause Melbourne some major issues up front, as he’s done consistently with his previous clubs, while Del Piero, Brett Emerton and Jason Culina also pose threats going forward.

Victory should have enough firepower to get the three points, but it will be anything but easy.

Follow Robbie on Twitter @RobertDiFabio