Take a deep breath and clench those buttocks. The big one is looming and this time there’s way more than regional pride and short-term bragging rights at stake.
You can almost taste the anticipation and smell the half-time meat pies ahead of what promises to be a bruising battle.
It would be great if it could be a spectacular goal-filled footballing spectacle (with the right result of course) but chances are the words of the day will be cagey, tense and close.
A cold and calculating pragmatist would try to persuade you that it’s just one more game with three more points at stake but that soul-less individual would obviously be missing the large and elephant-shaped issue.
This time, with both teams ideally positioned on the rails for a late charge for automatic promotion glory, managers – regardless of what they may say in front of the cameras – players and fans alike of both East Anglian clubs know full well that this is the most important derby clash for decades.
Just one solitary point separates the boys in blue of that old warhorse Mick McCarthy from the yellow and green guns under the youthful tutelage of Alex Neil.
Whatever the result on Sunday, there still won’t be many points or league places between them. But in terms of momentum and confidence, any gap could take on canyon-like proportions.
The usual and inevitable fierce and passionate rivalry and not-so-friendly banter will be there as always of course.
After all, back in 2008 a census of fans from the 92 Football League clubs concluded that Norwich v Ipswich was the second most fiercely contested local dust up in the land – second only to the Black Country bash between Wolves and West Brom.
By last year the Canaries/Tractor Boys mash up had been relegated by the Telegraph to the 5th spiciest local encounter in the calendar with the Welsh wrangle between Cardiff and Swansea now elevated to top spot.
Now, I’m not the most vitriolic and vengeful of people when it comes to the Portman Road populace. Suffolk is a picturesque county with a rich cultural history (Constable, Britten… Sheeran) and any fair-minded and reasonable son or daughter of Norfolk couldn’t argue against such a description surely?
While the town of Ipswich is not exactly the shining jewel of the county in that regard, its football club undeniably has a more bulging trophy cabinet than that of Carrow Road, albeit earned long before the invention of the World Wide Web and the selfie stick.
While we fondly reminisce about the Saunders, Bond, Walker and Lambert eras, Town were blessed to have two of the 20th century’s truly great managers in Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson, who went on to be the best we’ve had at international level. Credit where it’s due.
However, now the glory days of Wark and Brazil, Whymark and Mariner are all but a persistent piece of grit in the collective teary eye of a long-suffering and dwindling faithful down the road. Will they ever let us forget that Texaco Cup victory over us in 1973?
But nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. In the superfast broadband, multi-media age, where the Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ ethos has assumed ever more importance in a footballing sense, there is little room for sentimental sugar-coated day dreaming.
In recent times, the Canaries have just edged things with five wins compared to four over the past decade. The Premier League is the place to be but it was almost worth getting relegated to reacquaint ourselves with Suffolk’s finest twice a season.
That infamous ‘gap’ which was opened up back in October has been steadily eroded away since the arrival of our man from Hamilton while Uncle Mick has cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines with unexpected defeats and disappointment suffered at the hands of clubs –Brighton, Rotherham and Reading – who would have been expected to have been despatched.
That said, we too have been guilty of such failings in past months – including against those very same sides – but a new steely reserve and clinical end product has been developed in the fledgling Neil era. Long may it continue, starting on Sunday of course.
The season and our promotion hopes don’t all hinge around Sunday’s lunchtime get together. There will be time and opportunity for either side to bounce back from the unthinkable defeat and continue a push for the top spots.
But of course, those particular three points will feel so much richer and could make all the difference come end of season.
Then again, Sunday could all just be a tangy aperitif for an ‘Old Farm’ clash in May’s Play-Off Semi-Final or Final.
Now, holy cow, that really would be a buttock-clencher.