It is the only time when Italian football gets up close and personal. A tight, atmospheric ground ensures an occasion like no other. The club names may have changed over the years, but the intensity, passion and energy of the Genoa derby remains undimmed.
Known in Italy as the Derby Della Lanterna, literally ‘The Derby of the Lantern,’ in reference to the city’s lighthouse it has won many admirers over the years including Marcello Lippi who says the game is ‘the most special in Italy.’
The tie, down the years, has been full of explosive clashes ever since Genoa first played Andrea Doria in 1902. It was not until the creation of Sampdoria in 1946 that the derby got its present-day identity. Prior to that Sampierdarenese, Liguria and Andrea Doria all tried to knock Genoa Cricket and Football Club off their high perch.
Both have had their successful periods, but historically, Genoa are the more successful of the two. They were the early powerhouse of Italian football. Formed by an Englishman, hence why they are known by the English name for the city rather than the Italian Genova, Genoa achieved an incredible six consecutive scudetti between 1897-1904 under the guidance of Englishman James Richardson Spensley.
However with the emergence of the great teams of Bologna, Torino and Juventus, Genoa never won that historic tenth title and soon they would face competition from inside their own city.
After being formed in the 1940’s Sampdoria enjoyed ten years of great success between 1984-1994, starting with their first Coppa Italia in 1985. They went on to win three more and won the Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup in 1990 before conquering Italy.
Samp won their maiden title in 1991 with a five point advantage over Inter. This great side included Roberto Mancini, Gianluca Vialli and Attilio Lombardo with the Serbian Vujadin Boskov as their manager.
Next season was another first for Il Doria. A European Cup final against Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona was the stuff of dreams. However thanks to an extra time free kick from Ronald Koeman Samp were denied their second European trophy.
Since then both clubs have had highs and lows with the two teams experiencing both European football and relegation within the space of a couple of years. However the quality of the derbies has not suffered with some amazing results in recent years.
Overall Sampdoria have the better record in the derby with 29 wins compared with 21 for I Rossoblu and 32 ending in a stalemate.
The stadium which hosts this game is symbolic in Italy. The Luigi Ferraris has a capacity of 36,706 and played host to four games in Italia 90. It was also the scene of the recent Euro 2012 qualifier between Italy and Serbia which was overshadowed by crowd trouble.
The Marassi is famed for being one of the most atmospheric grounds in Serie A due to its close proximity to the pitch and this is never more felt than during a derby game.
It is different to many derbies in Italy as they is not one team that enjoys more support in the city than the other. The game literally splits Genova and the Liguria region in two.
In recent matches it is Genoa who have held the upper hand, winning five out of the last eight games, three in a row between late 2008- 2010. However last season Sampdoria remained unbeaten in the fixture, beating their neighbours 3-1 in November before earning a 1-1 draw in April.
One of the most iconic games in the derby’s history took place on November 25 1990, when Sampdoria hosted Genoa, in a derby that meant more.
With I Blucerchiati at the peak of their powers it looked certain that they would beat their rivals. However Genoa went in front thanks to a superb goal from Uruguayan Pato Aguilera on the 25th minute. Samp hit back with a Vialli penalty, and that should have been the catalyst for Boskov’s men to go on and beat Genoa.
It was not meant to be and 15 minutes from time Genoa won the match thanks to another amazing goal, a trademark free kick from their Brazilian star Claudio Branco.
The Genovese turned the memorable strike into the picture for their official Christmas card which was to be the joke of the city in the following months.
Both enjoyed a great season with Genoa finishing in their highest league position since the 1920’s in fourth and Samp went on the win the league.
The game is just one of the many remarkable battles between the two clubs over the 110 years of the Genova derby.
A derby like no other and always full of incident, the Derby Della Laterna has a unique place in Italian football.
Follow Richard Hinman on Twitter: @RichardHinman