Sevilla and Real Betis is the game in Spain most defined by its fans and on Thursday it will be the first glimpse of La Liga without them as the season resumes behind closed doors after three months away due to the coronavirus.
Fireworks, banners, plumes of smoke and crowds, delirious at the sight of a team bus, let alone a goal, the Seville derby is a fixture renowned for its intensity and cherished by its supporters.
There will be 110 games held in 39 days, with clubs playing every three days for five and a half weeks, but none for the rest of the season will be as much of a stark reminder of what is missing.null
“We can’t wait to return to competing,” said Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui on Wednesday.
“In circumstances that three months ago were unimaginable but today it is the reality and we have to adapt.
“The derby is going to be played and we all know what it means. We have to respond.”
At the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, where Sevilla had only lost two league games this season in front of their fans, the stands will be empty, except for officials and substitutes, who will be strecthed out across rows to maintain social distancing.
For those watching on television at home, the stands can be full, with virtual faces planted in place of vacant seats and fake crowd noise, taken from the computer game FIFA, ebbing and flowing according to the action.
La Liga’s hope is to pitch the restart as a celebration.
“Volver es Ganar”, has been the league’s slogan, “To Return is to Win”, and there is excitement around football’s return, to go with the relief in recent weeks as the number of deaths and infections have fallen.