With so much hype about the rivalry, it is easy to forget the thing that matters most in the match on Sunday between Birmingham City and Aston Villa: the football.
In recent years, the match has ranged from the belligerent (September 2002), to the tedious (October 2003) to the enthralling (February 2004). The first derby of 2005 is sure to fit into one of these categories and much depends on the passion and skill of the players.
Injuries have decimated both squads, meaning that Steve Bruce and David O'Leary have relatively few tough decisions to make. The teams effectively select themselves.
Villa go into the match in better heart. They won their most recent match, 2-0 at home to Middlesbrough, and might feel that the laws of average are in their favour. After all, they have lost three and drawn two of the past five derbies.
Birmingham, by contrast, have lost their past two matches - both against teams fighting to avoid relegation - and have turned inconsistency into an art form. A third successive defeat seems unthinkable.
Traditionally, derbies are won and lost in midfield, but it has not been the case where Birmingham and Villa are concerned.
Three months ago, Birmingham won because Emile Heskey was too strong for Olof Mellberg. A year ago, Villa let a two-goal lead slip because they failed to keep Mikael Forssell in check. In 2002, Birmingham won because of the confidence that Villa lost from Peter Enckelman's howler.
This weekend, the key battle is again likely to be the one between Heskey and Mellberg, but this time there is more hope for Villa. Mellberg has endured, by his own standards, a moderate season but he has been buoyed by the return of Martin Laursen.
Heskey is playing as well for Birmingham as he did for Liverpool in 2001 and a return to the England squad is inevitable. Though more a target-man than a goalscorer, Heskey is a player around whom a team can be built.
Heskey will probably play up front alongside Walter Pandiani but there is an argument for using Clinton Morrison instead. Morrison always flourishes against Villa and knows the vagaries and requirements of the match in the way that Pandiani does not.
Villa are sure to play with a 4-5-1 formation, with Darius Vassell occupying the lone position up front. This is not ideal - David O'Leary is an advocate of 4-4-2 - but an injury to Juan Pablo Angel forces the issue.
Vassell is not a natural finisher but he has quick feet, pace, and that rare ability to make defenders fearful. Matthew Upson and Kenny Cunningham, the Birmingham defenders, might give so much attention to Vassell that they miss Lee Hendrie making runs from deep positions for Villa.
It is an intriguing prospect, especially as Hendrie has scored some of the best goals in the Premiership this season. Passionate, emotional, and endearing, Hendrie is a player with the potential to dominate games or fall out of them altogether. At his best, he defines Villa's play.
Villa will miss Gavin McCann at the heart of the midfield, just as Birmingham will miss Robbie Savage. These are two players who find, amid the pandemonium of derbies, an ideal and exhilarating environment.
Damien Johnson has as much energy as Savage but, in the likely absence of Olivier Tebily, he will be thrust to right back, meaning that Birmingham will have Salif Diao and Stephen Clemence in the centre of the field.
Clemence is one of the most charming players in the Premiership, one of the most under-rated and, significantly, the one who most matches Bruce's perception of the honest professional.
Villa's five-man midfield is sure to make the centre of the field congested but this is no bad thing because there are ball players in abundance. Clemence and Diao rarely concede possession, while Villa have equally talented players in the shape of Steven Davis, Nolberto Solano, and Mathieu Berson.
Given the players on show, this could be the slowest derby for a generation. If so, that could be to Villa's advantage - despite O'Leary's protestations that his team are exponents of high-tempo football. In truth, it is Birmingham who benefit most when the match is shapeless and frenetic.
Of course, derbies never fall in line with pre-match predictions.
Somewhere, probably somebody not even mentioned, there is a hero waiting to emerge; waiting to engrave his name into the history of this momentous fixture