........until Hercules and Elche square up to each other in the Costa Blanca's fiercest local derby, "El Classico Alicantino." It may not have the cache of Barca against Madrid, but for local fans from either city, it's the first of two seasonal must win games.
Five matches in, thirteen teams and six points separate these Valencian rivals in the Segunda 'A' classification. Elche, after a disappointing start, recorded their first win last weekend when seeing off Cordoba at the Martinez Valero. For their part Hercules have lost once so far, away to Villareal B three weeks ago.
In 34 previous second division meetings between the two, the head to head record is identical, 11 wins apiece and twelve draws, Elche have found the back of the Hercules net 38 times and conceded 36.
In 2008/09 both matches ended all square, a ninetieth minute equalizer by Columbian Abel Aguilar, who has since left the club for La Liga side Zaragosa, earned Hercules a point in a 2-2 draw away and neither side could break the deadlock in a goal-less result in the return fixture at the Estadio Jose Rico Perez in Alicante.
Today, in a hot and crowded Hercules boardroom Elche President Jose Sepulcre and his opposite number Valentin Botella were all smiles as they fended off questions from the local print and TV media. In amongst the usual platitudes, both men expressed their desire to keep a clean sheet and not only win, but do so playing well.
In this regard Elche will be severely hampered by suspensions, Manager Claudio Barragan will view the game helpless from the stand after collecting a red card for dissent late in the recent victory of Cordoba. His energetic midfield playmaker Jose Luis Acciari was dismissed in the same match and will take no part in the derby and the home game a week later versus Recreativo.
PHOTO: Both club Presidents pose with the shirt of their opposite number