Ipswich Town v Norwich City play-off preview

There can have been few East Anglian derbies down the years with so much resting on the outcome. Today's Ipswich Town versus Norwich City battle is the first of two fixtures that could mean the difference between another year in the Championship or promotion into the Premier League. Passions always run high when the Norfolk-Suffolk tussles come around, but this one has the added spice of a potential £100 million bonus to contemplate at the end of the season.

Although the two clubs are separated by some 40 miles, there is a heated and often bitter rivalry between them.

Many neutrals query if this really deserves the tag of a "local" derby. The two sets of fans know different though. Although on a slightly smaller scale by comparison to the Old Firm and Tyne-Wear derbies elsewhere, expect no quarter to be given nor asked by the teams and their fans.

The first leg at lunchtime today will be at Portman Road. Ipswich's ground has seen plenty of top-flight Football down the years and even a winning UEFA Cup run in Europe in the past. The late Bobby Robson was their manager in those glory days. John Wark became a hero to many in his several stints as a player, besides featuring in the film "Escape to Victory" alongside Sylvester Stallone.

Ipswich's glory days may be a distant memory but current manager Mick McCarthy has developed a competitive outfit.

They made the play-offs on the final day on goal difference, despite losing at Blackburn Rovers. 56-year-old McCarthy has decades of experience to draw on, both as a former player and long-time manager. The plain-talking Yorkshireman managed the Republic of Ireland national team and has experienced both the highs and lows in the game.

Norwich's manager Alex Neil is young and hungry. Only recently finished as a player, he joined the 'Canaries' after a successful spell with Hamilton. The 33-year-old led the 'Accies' into the Scottish Premiership; when he left them they were riding high in the division. He is clearly ambitious and has driven Norwich on towards the promotion places in the second-half of the season.

They may well suffer a slight hangover after narrowly missing out on automatic promotion, yet the adrenaline flow from the derby should banish those thoughts from the players' heads.

Which side will be favourites?

Norwich may be the slight favourites, having beaten Ipswich twice this season. They also finished higher in the league (3rd against 6th). Yet previous form often counts for nothing in a derby, where an injudicious challenge can cost your side dear.

Norwich have Cameron Jerome available up front once again. Bradley Johnson and another ex-Leeds' midfielder, Jonny Howson can chip in with goals when needed. Lewis Grabban scored in both derbies this season, but is suspended after his sending off at Rotherham.

Ipswich will look to star striker Daryl Murphy to provide their goal threat. McCarthy as ever will also use set pieces as a major part of their armoury, which could trouble Norwich's defence. Skipper Luke Chambers will be keen to see his teammates provide the fans with some better times, after years of near misses when chasing promotion. He will also be pleased to see loanee Luke Varney back available for a place up front.

Both legs promise to be noisy affairs off the pitch and around the grounds. On the pitch there could be plenty of fireworks as well. The winners will face either Brentford or Middlesbrough in the play-off final.