Sunday's 308th Viennese derby between SK Rapid Wien and FK Austria Wien is bound to stir the emotions, with both sides desperately seeking three points to stay in touch with second-placed SV Grödig.
This prestigious meeting is the second most-played derby in Europe behind Glasgow's Old Firm clash, and the stakes are high given Austria can leapfrog their rivals into third position with an away win. However, the defending champions have struggled for form this term and are 19 points shy of Bundesliga frontrunners FC Salzburg after a sequence of three games without a victory leading into the winter break.
As for Rapid, coach Zoran Barisic has earned plaudits for nurturing a young team capable of an attractive brand of football. "The timing of the derby is just right," said the 43-year-old. "It's a very important game for us and our supporters. We are really looking forward to the challenge." Midfielder Dominik Wydra added: "It would give us a huge boost for the weeks ahead if we were able to win."
Regardless of the form guide or league standings, a tangible sense of anticipation always surrounds a fixture fuelled by two sets of madly passionate fans. Indeed, Austria supporters are famed for their relentless vocal backing, while Rapid's often respond to the twin values of commitment and spirit from their players.
History, meanwhile, favours Rapid, who have triumphed 125 times to Austria's 112, since waltzing to a 4-1 success in the first capital derby in 1911. Statistics will count for little, though, when the clubs reconvene at the weekend, says Rapid captain Steffen Hofmann. "It's great to have the Bundesliga back. What has gone on in the past is irrelevant. It's a big game on Sunday and we want to win," he said.
In October, the Violets' ten-match unbeaten streak in derbies ended when Rapid's Terrence Boyd hit an 88th-minute winner, prompting pandemonium among the visiting support. This time the United States forward is suspended as Nenad Bjelica's men plot their revenge.
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