With the Swiss Super League title already decided, Saturday's derby between newly-crowned FC Zurich and Grasshoppers will be about local pride rather points and places. Even before seeing their arch-rivals wrap up league title number 12 last weekend, Grasshoppers had resigned themselves to a fourth-placed finish behind Basel and Young Boys Bern, who took second and third respectively.
And while this latest derby will lack the drama of a last-day championship decider, both sides will be fully committed at the Letzigrund stadium, with summer bragging rights the potential reward for the respective fans.
The maiden Zurich derby was contested way back in 1897, making it one of the oldest cross-city rivalries outside of Britain. Grasshoppers were founded 11 years prior to that inaugural match and have since become the most successful side in Swiss history. FC Zurich, meanwhile, took their first steps as a football side in 1896.
As with many local rivalries, derby days in Switzerland's largest city were often representative of the different fan groups and classes within the region. Traditionally, Grasshoppers were hailed as the nobleman's club, while FC Zurich served as the face of the working classes. These days, such divisions are a thing of the past and FCZ have welcomed a new wave of support from all corners of society. Indeed, the club now boasts a slightly larger global fan base than their arch-rivals.
Facts and figures
Despite trailing a little in the supporter stakes, Grasshoppers remain Switzerland's most successful club by some distance with 27 titles and 18 cups among their extensive list of honours. FC Zurich are some way behind with their 12 championships and seven cup triumphs, although the club have certainly enjoyed more domestic success in recent times. Grasshoppers' last trophy was a league title victory in 2003, but FCZ's 2006 and 2007 Super League triumphs, as well as a cup victory in 2005, have made them the team to beat in recent years.
In their 216 derbies, Grasshoppers just have their noses in front in terms of victories. That said, Hanspeter Latour's charges have failed to manage a win over their local rivals since December 2007, their only success in the last ten derbies.
Tales of derbies past
Several of the game's stars have graced the Zurich derbies in years gone by, including former Swiss national team coach Jakob Kuhn and FIFA's Oceania Player of the Century Wynton Rufer, who both spent a sizeable portion of their careers at FC Zurich. Rufer himself still maintains fond memories of the historic fixture: "It was always special playing in the Zurich derbies, even though I always seemed to be on the losing side," recalled the former New Zealand striker.
It was always special playing in the Zurich derbies, even though I always seemed to be on the losing side.
Thomas Bickel, who earned 52 caps for Switzerland between 1984 and 1995 and sampled life at both Zurich clubs during his career, gave FIFA.com his take on the fixture: "The derby was like no other match. Whenever FC Zurich played Grasshoppers, the fans were so emotional and the atmosphere was electric. It was all people talked about and always headline news. That excitement filtered through to us players, too, of course."
The rivalry today
When FCZ replaced FC Basel as Swiss champions last Sunday, Bernard Challandes' side ironically had Grasshoppers to thank for the early celebrations. Their old foes sent Basel packing with a 4-1 home win, meaning that FC Zurich's away victory at promoted Bellinzona was enough to ensure the 12th title in the club's history.
One of the main factors in this season's success has been the attacking prowess of FC Zurich's forward line of Almen Abdi, Eric Hassli and Alexandre Alphonse, three of the top five goalscorers in the Super League this term. For their part, Grasshoppers' dissapointing fourth-placed finish means they will miss out on European football for the fourth year in a row.