Every game that pits fierce city rivals Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid together has its own unique flavour. With respect to all the other capital-based clubs that play (in the case of Getafe) or have played in Spain's Primera Division, the showdown between Los Blancos (The Whites) and Los Rojiblancos (The Red-and-whites) has always been the Madrid derby par excellence.
Much of what defines these two historic Spanish clubs lies in their fiercely antagonistic relationship. The team plying their trade at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, in the north of the Spanish capital, have amassed a glittering haul of trophies which bear witness to years of domestic and international success, not to mention the galaxy of stars who have worn the famous Merengue jersey. This image has traditionally seen Real Madrid linked to the country's more well-to-do football followers, despite the fact that they have always drawn support from fans across all walks of life.
Atletico's title collection may pale in comparison with that of their glamorous neighbours, but the club take pride in their reputation as standard-bearers for Madrid's working-class population. Their stadium, the Vicente Calderon, can be found over in the south of the city on the banks on the Manzanares River, and has played host over the years to many of the dizzying highs and gravity-defying lows that led to Atletico being unofficially nicknamed El Pupas (The luckless wonders). Even the team's official anthem, written by legendary Spanish songwriter Joaquin Sabina, is titled 'Que manera de sufrir' ('What a way to suffer').
The two sides shared the spoils when they first came face to face in a friendly in February 1905. In the years that followed the Madrid derby became as much a clash of values as a sporting rivalry, and whenever these two irreconcilable foes meet, the normally frenetic Spanish capital grinds to a standstill as the fault lines separating Merengues from Rojiblancos are revealed once more.
Facts and figures
Looking ahead to this Saturday's eagerly awaited clash at the Bernabeu, the weight of history as well as the record books tip the balance heavily in favour of the home side. Real Madrid have amassed a staggering 31 League titles, twenty more than their neighbours to the south of the city, while in 71 derby games held at the Bernabeu, 48 have ended in victory for Los Blancos. Atletico, meanwhile, have taken the spoils on just 12 occasions, recording their last win in this fixture during the 1999/2000 season. The men in white also have a slight edge in the 72 meetings at the Calderon, winning 29 of those matches and losing 23.
The two players with the most appearances in the fixture both played their football in the days of black-and-white television. The legendary Adelardo leads the way for Atletico with 27 derby matches, while the one and only Paco Gento amassed 29 appearances during his distinguished career. The top scorer on either side is Carlos Santillana with 13 goals.
Tales of derbies past
Hugo Sanchez, Bernd Schuster, Juan Eduardo Esnaider, Pedro Jaro, Santiago Solari and Jose Antonio Reyes are just some of the illustrious names who have donned the jerseys of both clubs, generating a fair amount of resentment in the process.
As far as Colchonero fans are concerned, however, none of those names can generate the same sense of regret as one Raul Gonzalez Blanco. As a youngster the Real Madrid legend was on Atletico's books but was forced to move across to the Bernabeu when the Rojiblancos disbanded their youth teams. The prolific striker rubbed salt in the wounds by scoring the very first league goal of his career in a 1994/95 First Division clash against Atleti at the Bernabeu.
As their dramatic history reveals, there are few clubs quite like Atletico Madrid. In 1975 they became the only team to win the Intercontinental Cup without being crowned continental club champions beforehand. And in the 2000/01 season, only four short years after celebrating a league and cup double, Atleti fans revealed their depth of loyalty by helping the club break the Spanish second division record for the highest number of season ticket holders.
The rivalry today
As Atletico old boy Fernando Torres once commented, "the derby is a different game altogether." Form and league positions are forgotten for 90 minutes as the two halves of Madrid set about getting one over their neighbours. And as they prepare for this latest instalment, Real Madrid's goal is to extend their recent local dominance and continue their pursuit of league leaders Barcelona. Having won ten league matches in a row, Juande Ramos's buoyant side have closed to within four points of the Catalans.
After making a shaky start to 2009, Atletico hit form in spectacular fashion last weekend, recording a stunning 4-3 defeat of Barça to throw the title race wide open. And when the two sides run out a packed Bernabeu on Saturday, all eyes will be on the duel between standard bearers Raul and Sergio 'Kun' Aguero.
As always, the battle is sure to be intense although both sets of fans are hoping this will not be the last time they meet this season. Given their disappointing first-leg results in the first knockout round of the UEFA Champions League, a repeat encounter in Rome in May looks unlikely, although as these two clubs have shown time and again, anything is possible in football.