More than local pride will be at stake on Saturday evening, as a place in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals awaits the winner of the Derbi Sevillano between Real Betis and Sevilla.
While the two city rivals are flying high in La Liga, they would both relish the chance to take one step closer to claiming some silverware at an intense Estadio Benito Villamarin.
While the Seville Derby is always an occasion to enjoy for neutrals and fans alike, there will be an extra edge this weekend, as the teams take a break from successful league campaigns to contest what is sure to be a heated Copa del Rey tie in the Andalusian capital.
Having failed to beat their bitterest rivals in La Liga since September 2018, Real Betis now host them in cup competition, where they have fared even worse in El Gran Derbi since the turn of the century.
On the three occasions the clubs have met in knockout football since 1986, Betis have succumbed to Sevilla each time – including a 6-0 evisceration over two legs in the Copa quarter-finals during the 2015-16 season and 2014’s Europa League exit on penalties after a 2-2 aggregate draw.
Recent form, though, hints that Los Verdiblancos could reverse that trend on Saturday, as just days after securing their passage to the last 16 with a 3-0 win at Valladolid, they managed to salvage a point against Rayo Vallecano despite playing an hour with 10 men.
As a result, Manuel Pellegrini’s side sit just above reigning champions Atletico Madrid in the standings and very much in the mix for a Champions League place next term.
They are also anticipating a clash with Russian Premier League leaders Zenit St Petersburg in the knockout round of the Europa League next month, but first continue their pursuit of Copa del Rey glory against their closest neighbours.
After staying in touch with La Liga leaders Real Madrid by sealing a 1-0 home win against Getafe last Sunday, there is little doubt that only Sevilla stand between Carlo Ancelotti’s side and yet another Spanish league crown in the spring.
Currently second in the table – five points behind Real, who have played a game more – their continued presence in the title race at this stage of the season has surprised many observers, but former Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui has forged a winning outfit from the talented squad at his disposal.
Also 10 points clear of third-placed Betis, they advanced to this round of the Copa del Rey courtesy of a 2-0 victory at Real Zaragoza just over a week ago, having previously squeezed past lowly Andratx on penalties despite fielding a relatively strong side.
Like their fiercest foes, Los Rojiblancos will venture into the knockout round of the Europa League next month, where they meet Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb, but a more parochial battle will take place at the Villamarin on Saturday.
Sevilla will arrive at their rivals’ headquarters boasting the second-best away record in La Liga this season and having conceded just five league goals on the road. Furthermore, they have accrued 16 from a possible 18 points in their last six top-flight games – seamlessly picking up where they left off before the winter break.
Real Betis Copa del Rey form:
Real Betis form (all competitions):
Sevilla Copa del Rey form:
Sevilla form (all competitions):
We say: Real Betis 1-2 Sevilla
Only one of the last seven league meetings between these sides has finished level, and Sevilla are set to be the team which comes out on top this time – repeating their away victory of November to progress to the last eight.
It could be a close-fought affair, given the visitors’ general defensive mastery and their depleted front line, but the city will be red again when the final whistle blows on Saturday night.