How Tigres-Monterrey, America-Cruz Azul compare
Headlining the upcoming Liga MX weekend will be two marquee crosstown rivalry matches kicking off this Saturday: the Clasico Regio in Monterrey and Clasico Joven in Mexico.
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Starting with Monterrey against Tigres in the Clasico Regio, expect an abundance of fanfare in a packed Estadio BBVA Bancomer that will host some of the most passionate fans in Mexican soccer. On the pitch, big spending on both sides has made the rivalry a talent-rich spectacle that is expected to feature many of the league’s top marquee players.
Later Saturday, in Mexico City, Clasico Joven, Club America vs. Cruz Azul represents a thrilling battle between two of Liga MX’s traditional teams. While Club America looms large with more titles (13) than any other team in the country, former ‘cursed’ Cruz Azul claimed their first league crown since 1997 when they lifted the 2021 Clausura Trophy.
With bragging rights up for grabs (as well as possible playoff positioning), here’s where all four teams stand ahead of Saturday’s highly anticipated rivalry games.
Go to: Monterrey | UANL Tigers | Club America | Cruz Azul
Upright: 2nd place, 6W-2D-1L
How their season went: Once frustrating to watch with their indecisive moments in the final third, Monterrey now play with newfound confidence as they have scored 20 goals in their first nine Apertura 2022 appearances. Their secret? Bringing back former manager Victor Manuel Vucetich, who previously led the team to two Liga MX titles and three CONCACAF Champions League trophies during his first stint with the organization in 2009-13.
A decade later, Vucetich, sometimes referred to as “King Midas” for his previous successes, continues to have a bit of his magical managerial touch after being brought back this spring. Three days before hosting the Tigres in the Clasico Regio, Monterrey extended their unbeaten streak to eight games after earning a 1-1 draw in Week 9 with top-placed Toluca.
Who they relied on: The case could be made for Arturo “Ponchito” Gonzalez as the Liga MX MVP, so far. Along with his five assists, the 27-year-old Mexican midfielder has also contributed with four goals to his name. Elsewhere, others like striker Rodrigo Aguirre and attacking midfielder Maxi Meza are influential pieces of Monterrey’s attacking puzzle.
If fully fit after suffering a minor knock against Toluca, striker Rogelio Funes Mori is someone who should make a game-changing appearance. Since starting the Apertura with four goals in four games, he has remained silent in his last five matches. A superb goal against Toluca this week, unfortunately ruled offside, could be a sign of things to come.
Who should intervene: At the risk of upsetting countless Mexican national team fans who want to overtake him, Rodolfo Pizarro is an easy answer here. Rapid loss of relevance with Sorting and usually far too quiet for his club side, the midfielder could greatly benefit from a headline-grabbing performance. Even with a few fairly lackluster games under his belt, Pizarro has picked up plenty of appearances in recent weeks for Monterrey, which likely means he will have at least one appearance this Saturday.
If Pizarro improves, he could be considered as a replacement in Mexico’s World Cup squad for the injured Jesus Corona, who is now expected to miss the trip to Qatar.
Ranking: 3rd place, 6W-0D-2L
How their season went: The first half of the season hasn’t been bad for coach Miguel “Piojo” Herrera. Despite consistently shooting themselves in the foot with six red cards in their last seven games, the Tigers have somehow picked up six wins in this run.
Well-rounded with plenty of depth in the squad, Herrera’s backline will be even more resilient going forward with the addition of defender Samir Caetano from Watford last week. That said, the Brazilian is probably unlikely to feature this weekend.
Either way, the Tigers roster will have the notable advantage of not having a midweek game before Saturday’s game.
Who they relied on: Unsurprisingly, club legend André-Pierre Gignac once again led the front line with his three goals and two assists in eight appearances. Mexican midfielder Sebastian Cordova has had a quiet start to the season, as has goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman. Full-back Javier Aquino has been active, down both flanks, and is a vital source of countless build-up passes in the opposition half.
The central defensive partnership between Diego Reyes and Igor Lichnovsky didn’t immediately stand out, but provided stability. Assuming Herrera doesn’t try to catch Monterrey off guard with unexpected changes – perhaps asking too much of the sometimes spontaneous and impulsive coach – both players should be reliable options ahead of Guzman.
Who should intervene: Winger Luis Quiñones scored in the Tigres’ last 2-0 win over Santos Laguna, but that probably won’t be enough to convince fans who have questioned the inconsistencies of the Liga MX All-Star. With the Tigres’ commanding depth, someone like Quiñones can’t afford to be unreliable in such a crucial position.
In general for Tigres, Herrera’s players also need to do a better job of avoiding red cards. One or two map decisions have been questionable, but it’s still a worrying trend for the team who are close to averaging suspensions every game.
Upright: 5th place, 4W-1D-3L
How their season went: After a poor start to the Apertura season, Las Aguilas are now gaining ground with three straight wins. Thanks to a combination of hard-hitting new signings and familiar faces, manager Fernando Ortiz and his squad have finally found chemistry this month and will sprint into the Estadio Azteca in high spirits.
They won’t take that Classic slightly either. After a 3-0 away win against Pachuca on Wednesday, the Club America manager had this to say about how they view their meeting with Cruz Azul: “On Saturday we have a final.”
Who they relied on: Since Club America’s rejuvenation began midway through the regular season, various names have come to mind. Young Mexican defender Emilio Lara has looked like it could be their academy’s next big talent. In midfield, Alejandro Zendejas, Richard Sanchez and Diego Valdes are all creditable for their spread and control within the XI.
Recent addition Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodriguez, who played for Cruz Azul from 2019-21 before a short stint at Al-Nassr, is also starting to click on the front row with two goals this month.
Nonetheless, striker Henry Martin should be given immense credit as the focal point of the team’s attacking efforts. The attacker – often the object of much anger from Sorting supporters – now has five goals and two assists in just his last four games. Few, if any, Liga MX players have the same momentum as the Mexican goalscorer. If he continues like this, it is likely that he will go to Qatar.
Who should intervene: Speaking of the national team, Sorting newcomer Salvador Reyes should be desperate to make a splash this weekend. Struggling with ongoing injury issues, the 24-year-old full-back is yet to start this season for Club America. He’s made two second-half substitutions in recent games, showing he’s at least healthy enough to be back on the pitch.
With others topping him on the depth chart for club and country, Reyes should use this high-profile game as an opportunity to steal the show.
Upright: 16th place, 2W-2D-5L
How their season went: Things could be better for Cruz Azul. In a reverse scenario of Club America’s situation, they are on a three-game losing streak heading into the big game. It became clear that the team did not adapt to new manager Diego Aguirre’s tactics, and after taking over at the end of May the coach struggled to organize his squad which turned into a mess defensive.
Wednesday’s dismal 2-1 loss at home to Club Tijuana dealt a blow to Cruz Azul’s playoff chances. As Club America picks up speed, Cruz Azul is falling like a rock with nine goals conceded in his previous three appearances.
Who they relied on: At first, Cruz Azul was carried by goals from promising striker Santiago Gimenez, but he is now in the Eredivisie with Feyenoord. Looking around the roster, Jose Ignacio Rivero deserves a shout out and is someone who works tirelessly in midfield and defense for Cruz Azul. Midfielder Carlos Rodriguez is also a key facilitator with the ball, but with Gimenez out of play he hasn’t been able to create the same connection with the replacement forwards.
While the backline remains disorganized, full-back/centre-back Juan Escobar provided a handful of strong individual performances for Cruz Azul. At his best, he could possibly help avert disaster against Club America.
Who should intervene: Goalkeeper Sebastian Jurado must be at the top of his game this Saturday. Even if it’s not entirely his fault if Los Cementeros allowed a total of 18 goals, the league’s worst total all season, even more is expected of the 24-year-old who has had his own share of errors in net. An unfinished product, the Mexican keeper has a high ceiling with his talents but also struggles to be able to deliver consistently good performances.
The difference between Cruz Azul being competitive, or perhaps even achieving a surprising result, could land on the shoulders (and hands) of Jurado.