'Clásico Capitalino': Can UNAM slow down the high-flying Aguilas?

Penultimate matchday of Clausura 2024 has eight teams battling over last five Liga MX playoff spots
América's Julián Quiñones (left) and Álvaro Fidalgo had plenty to celebrate on Saturday night at Estadio Azteca. The defending Liga MX champs routed Toluca 5-1 to return to the top of the table.
América's Julián Quiñones (left) and Álvaro Fidalgo had plenty to celebrate on Saturday night at Estadio Azteca. The defending Liga MX champs routed Toluca 5-1 to return to the top of the table. / Hector Vivas/GettyImages

After the defending Liga MX champs crushed Toluca 5-1 on Saturday to knock the Diablos Rojos out of first place, some pundits could be heard muttering “Might as well just give América the trophy right now.”

Televisa commentator Miguel Layún, writing in the sports daily Record, declared that André Jardine’s side could a team for the ages. Of course, Layún won three titles with América, retiring last season after hoisting the trophy in Estadio Azteca, so he might be a bit biased. Then again, he has an insider’s view.

The Aguilas boast the best defense in Liga MX (9 goals allowed in 15 games) backed by goalie Luis Malagón who is being touted as the next El Tri No. 1. They have an explosive offense led by MVP candidate Diego Valdés, striker Henry Martín (now No. 7 on América’s all-time scoring list with 99 goals) and dynamic winger Julián Quiñones.

The last time “Los Azulcremas” won back-to-back championships was in 1988-1989 and they are odds-on favorites to take home the hardware again this season. 

Pumas call ‘Next!’

With eight teams jockeying for the final five playoff spots, Matchday 16 offers up some tantalizing contests. 

Eighth-place Guadalajara hosts 10th-place Querétaro in a must-win game for both teams, 7th-place Tigres can clinch its 19th straight postseason appearance with a win over fifth-place Necaxa, and 11th-place León must defeat visiting 3rd-place Monterrey to keep alive its own playoff dreams.

But the marquee match-up of the weekend is clearly Saturday’s “Clásico Capitalino.” Mighty América marches across town to take on UNAM, the 137th regular-season clash between these bitter Mexico City rivals.

The Aguilas have made themselves at home at the CU of late, posting an 8-6-1 record in their past 15 appearances on campus. 

Though this game is much more important for the Pumas who are hanging onto a Play-In spot at the moment, América can clinch the top seed throughout the Liga MX playoffs with a win.

UNAM is coming off a big home win and hopes the slim 1-0 victory over León provides some momentum. 

Piero Quispe’s first Liga MX goal in minute 68 proved to be the winner, boosting “los felinos” into 9th place with 23 points, above Querétaro on goal differential with two games remaining.

The Gallos Blancos' game at Guadalajara will have ended by the time the ball starts rolling at the CU, so UNAM will know whether or not Querétaro has edged past them.

The Pumas visit Querétaro on the final match day of the Clausura 2024, so this weekend’s results won’t be definitive for either team (barring a blow-out in either game). Losses by either (or both) allow León (20 points), Santos Laguna (15) and Mazatlán FC (15) to stay in the race, depending on the outcomes of their own Matchday 16 contests.

Matchday 16 kicks off Friday night with a triple-header. The only one of the three matches worth paying attention to is the FC Juárez at Mazatlán FC clash. The host Cañoneros (15 points) must win to make meaningful their season-ending visit to Pachuca.


The Toluca at Atlético de San Luis game will be interesting to see if the Diablos Rojos can bounce back from the shellacking they received at Estadio Azteca, but Friday's nightcap (Puebla at Tijuana) sees the two worst teams in Liga MX squaring off, so only the masochistic need watch.