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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 18, 2006

Sicilian rivals resume Serie A rivalry

ROME, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Connoisseurs of Italian football have a treat to savour on Wednesday when Sicilian rivals Palermo and Catania resume an ancient rivalry.

The last top-flight derby between the two was in 1963 although the passions surrounding their meetings have not cooled in the intervening years.

'I'm only 45 years old, so I'm a little young to remember the last one,' the sports editor of La Sicilia newspaper, Antonio Fiasconaro, told Reuters.

'But there isn't a match like it. It's the mother of all derbies.

'There has always been an intense rivalry between the two cities, and it's not just limited to football.

'Palermo and Catania are rivals in everything: business, culture, art - you name it. So both sets of fans will see the match as a chance to get one up on the others.'

The last time the teams played each other, in April 2004, they were both in Serie B.

Palermo crushed mid-table Catania 5-0 on their way to winning promotion.

Since then, Palermo have developed into one of the strongest sides in Italy.

Canny transfer deals and the return of Francesco Guidolin - the coach who led them to promotion in 2004 and a fifth-place finish in Serie A the following year - has made them widely-tipped for a top-four finish this season.

Catania, meanwhile, regained their top-flight status after finishing second in Serie B last season.

Promotion capped a 13-year climb through the divisions which began in 1993 when Catania were thrown into Italy's Eccellenza league, on the fringes of professional football in Italy, for financial irregularities.

Now, with three teams in Serie A - the other being Messina - Sicilian football has never looked in such good health.

'It's a very exciting moment for Sicilian football,' said Fiasconaro.

'Palermo have won their last three matches, including an historic win over West Ham in the UEFA Cup.

'They have scored six goals in two games in Serie A so far and are the most prolific team in the division, while Catania have yet to concede a goal,' he said.

'Obviously I'd say Palermo were favourites, but Catania haven't played any European football. They are fresher, and it's a derby - anything can happen'.