‘Super Clásico’ kick-starts second half of Clausura 22

The Liga MX derby always provides intensity and emotion. That should remain the case tonight even though America during the 10th round match between América is in last place. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
The Liga MX derby always provides intensity and emotion. That should remain the case tonight even though America during the 10th round match between América is in last place. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /
Liga MX super Clasico preview
América might appear down-and-out, but when the Chivas are across the field from them, all bets are off. Liga MX fans will be treated to another “Super Clásico” tonight. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

The Guadalajara-América game gets top billing regardless of team circumstances, and that statement takes on extra relevance today since América sits in last place.

The certainty of that statement has been confirmed all week as the “Super Clásico” has been heavily promoted despite the two very attractive games preceding it tonight. In part, league officials hope the national derby helps put last weekend’s tragic events behind them.

Saturday’s matinee features two teams battling for a Top 4 spot (and the first-round playoff bye that goes with it), and that is followed by a Mexico City derby. But Chivas-Aguilas is THE game of the season for Liga MX, and perhaps that’s as it should be.

Guadalajara would love nothing more than to kick its bitter Liga MX rival while it is down; América is dreaming of rising from the ashes by tripping up the Goats.

Throw out the records when these two teams play …

Despite having one of the highest payrolls in Liga MX, América is in the cellar with a 1-3-5 record. And an interim coach. And a general manager hearing calls for his dismissal. And a very frustrated locker room.

So, the Chivas have them right where they want them, right? Well … not so fast.

Guadalajara is only in 10th place with a 3-2-4 record and the team has conceded 14 goals already. Coach Marcelo Michel Leaño is on a hot seat (though the team’s financial situation makes it unlikely they’d fire him before season’s end) and GM Ricardo Peláez is getting the blame for failing to deliver on promises made when he took over “The Most Popular Team in Liga MX” back in January 2020.

On the field, however, this should be a very entertaining game. Despite the records, there is talent. And América got word that playmaker Diego Valdés passed his fitness test and he should be ready for his first “Super Clásico.”

El Tri goalie “Memo” Ochoa hopes the Aguilas have sorted out their defensive issues (16 goals allowed, third worst in Liga MX), while interim coach Fernando Ortiz will tinker with his offense to see if he can find a productive combination.

This game should have some scoring and could provide 90 minutes of intense, non-stop action.

At the other end of the Liga MX table …

The fourth-place Tigres take their high-flying offense to León where the fifth-place Esmeraldas are trying to pick up the pieces after Tuesday’s 3-0 humiliation in the Concacaf Champions League.

Miguel Herrera’s team is on a six-game unbeaten streak and lead the Liga MX in scoring. Unfortunately, they also leak a lot of goals, winning games 3-2 and 4-3. The Tigres have given up at least two goals on four different occasions as Herrera emphasizes quick transition and all-out counterattacks which has left goalie Nahuel Guzmán vulnerable from time-to-time.

León still features a free-flowing attacking style, but the goals have not been forthcoming this season. “La Fiera” has just 9 goals in nine games though Ariel Holan’s defense remains one of the best in Liga MX.

The Esmeraldas know they must generate more goals or their postseason experience will not feature a return to the Liga MX Finals. The Tigres are eager to avenge their loss to León in last season’s semifinal round and doing that in the Camp Nou would be gratifying.

León will have to bounce back from the embarrassing performance against the Seattle Sounders while “Los Felinos” arrive well-rested since they have not played since March 2.

Pumas at Cruz Azul

In Mexico City, Cruz Azul hosts crosstown rivals UNAM with both teams coming off midweek commitments. The Cementeros defeated CF Montreal 1-0 at Estadio Azteca on Wednesday while the Pumas were pummeled 3-0 by New England Revolution earlier that same night.

Cruz Azul has had the unwelcome tendency to concede late goals in league play and that is UNAM’s specialty, particularly against “La Máquina.” In last season’s meeting, the Pumas erased a 3-1 second-half deficit to win 4-3, but that game was at the CU.

UNAM has beaten Cruz Azul at Estadio Azteca just once since 2014 and that came in a season finale in which the Cementeros had little to play for.

Coach Juan Reynoso is still working to fix his team’s late-game woes (unfortunately, he has often contributed to them with questionable substitution patterns) while also making sure he doesn’t overtax his stars who will be needed to complete the job against CF Montreal next week.

The Pumas will try and refocus their attention on Liga MX play as their ConcaChampions dreams were rather completely crushed by Wednesday’s loss in Boston although the return match is set for Wednesday in the CU.

This game will likely be won in midfield where Charlie Rodríguez and former Pumas star Erik Lira now prowl. UNAM’s Leo López and Higor Meritao will have to try to match the intensity of the young Cruz Azul pair, while Pumas striker Juan Ignacio Dinenno will battle against the rugged Cementeros back line.

Next. Barça look to rebound vs Osasuna. dark

There’s every reason to believe this game will come down to the final seconds, especially since Cruz Azul has conceded four goals in second-half stoppage time this season. Veteran goalies Alfredo Talavera (Pumas) and Jesús Corona (Cementeros) will have a lot to say about the outcome.