Sevilla vs Real Betis: The Spicy Seville Derby Contested in Europe's Hottest City

When you ponder over the makings of a classic derby, there are many factors to consider. Location, similar ability of the teams, relatively equal success at domestic level, fiercely loyal fan bases, and of course, a deep, burning hatred of their enemies.

Well, forget Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. Stick El Clásico and El Derbi Madrileño back on the shelf. There's only one derby in Spain that ticks all the desired boxes, and that is El Gran Derbi, fought between same-city rivals Sevilla and Real Betis.

Without doubt, this is one of the most passionate and hotly-disputed derbies in European football, and although it may not grab all the headlines across the continent, it is respected in Spain as a key fixture in the football calendar.

They say 'if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen', and that adage has never been more apt than describing the pressures and expectations that surround the Seville derby, the city known as the hottest destination in Europe.

Both clubs are situated in the sweltering city of Seville, and it seems they were put on this earth to divide and oppose from the very beginning. In fact, Betis was formed in spite of Sevilla, after Los Palanganas had allegedly decided to select players solely from the richest corners of the city.

So Betis stood up for the little guy, handing opportunities to the working class to prove their worth against the snobbish elitists of the city. Rich vs poor, evil vs good, them against us. It's a story which is told in every country - but none quite as well as in Seville.

The first official meeting between the two sides came in 1915, and the contest was won by the newly-formed underdogs Betis, clinching a 1-0 victory through an Alberto Henke goal. The win was celebrated with a parade through the streets, as the surprising winners showed off their trophy to the rest of the Andalusian capital. Unsurprisingly, the early meetings did not pass without incident, inciting riots and fights between rival fans.

And this bitter history of hatred has ebbed and flowed throughout the derby's existence, and it has obviously seeped from the pitch and into the stands. The two sets of supporters truly resent their adversaries - causing in-house splits and fights within families - like any good local derby should.

The beauty of El Gran Derbi is also entrenched in its simplicity. While Madrid and Barça supporters may glance at key dates in their fixture list for their inevitable title race, or hypothesise over mouth-watering Champions League ties, for Sevilla and Betis, there are only two matches they frantically search for on the calendar: El Derbi Sevillano - home and away.

To say the city splits in half on derby day is no exaggeration. Seville is utterly football obsessed, to the point that more than five percent of its 700,000 population are season-ticket holders or club members of one of the two teams.

The pair maintain that perfect balance of success, but not enough glory that it detracts from the real task at hand. Beating your nemesis. And there is nothing quite like turning up on enemy territory, outnumbered, outgunned, but somehow upsetting the odds.

This is a feeling that both teams have become pretty accustomed to however, as the pair have both enjoyed a surprising history of success when making the short trip across Seville to their neighbour's turf.

In fact, Sevilla's opening ceremony for their shiny, new Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in 1958 was tarnished beyond repair, after Betis romped to a 4-2 victory in their rival's backyard, making sure their wealthy adversaries couldn't enjoy their luxurious home in too much comfort.

And the supporters make sure they provide their heroes with the ammunition and inspiration they need to overcome their opponents, religiously turning up in their thousands to attend the final training sessions before the derby clash, to offer their support and encouragement.

Without the pressures of a league title or the threat of impending relegation riding on the match, football fans are left to sweat over the two most important factors of any derby: pride and bragging rights.

But that pressure and long-standing hatred can sometimes boil over.

The reputation of the derby took a real hit in the 1990's and early 2000's, as violence between supporters began to upstage the football spectacle, and the bridge between the two clubs looked to be irreparable. The ugly scenes peaked in 2007, when Sevilla boss (and former Betis coach) Juande Ramos was hit and knocked unconscious by a glass bottle thrown from the stands.

But often in our lowest moments, do we join together and unite with the least-expected acquaintance.

Later in 2007, the relationship between the rivals was tested when Sevilla star Antonio Puerta suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch and subsequently died. But the two fanbases mourned as one for the tragic loss of life, with players from both sides attending his funeral, and the violence has softened since that moment of unity.

While the two teams are not competing for La Liga titles season after season, they have enjoyed enough success to be considered mainstays and well-respected members of the Spanish top flight. Betis won their first - and only league title in 1935, and los Verdiblancos lifted their second Copa del Rey as recently as 2005.

Sevilla, on the other hand, have been Spain's most successful team in European competition over the past 15 years. They are known as the Europa League experts, lifting the secondary European trophy an incredible five times since 2006 - with three of those successes coming consecutively.

So, both teams have pretty good pedigree.

But under the unbearable heat of the blistering Andalusian sun, no European trophy, no domestic or worldwide domination, no single victory can ease the pain of suffering a crushing defeat in El Gran Derbi. The real derby of Spanish football for real supporters.