SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 20: A fan of CD Chivas waits for the team buses to arrive prior to the game against Real Madrid at Qualcomm Stadium on July 20, 2011 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images)
Two bitter rivals face off this weekend in front of a rabid sell-out crowd. Two teams that are sure to be some of the last standing in the Liguilla. Two teams that I will not be writing about here. Even though the "Clasico Regio" (the matchup of Monterrey's two rivals ... Tigres and Monterrey), is the game of the weekend, it will not be this weekend's biggest spectacle and will not be the match all of Mexico is watching.
This Sunday Chivas of Guadalajara and Club America face off in the Clasico of Mexico. The two most well-supported clubs battle for bragging rights and a potential playoff spot. Just three months ago, this seemed improbable. Just three weeks ago, this seemed like a serious under-sell. The season has been quite interesting for these two squads.
Both America and Chivas have recently experienced dramatic turnarounds. Chivas rebounded from the worst start in their club's history. Using some mixture of youth system products growing up quickly, getting a little more scoring luck, and moral inspiration from the Dutch Wonder they collected three straight victories. Suddenly, the Clausura 2012 was not a lost cause. America, after finishing 17th last season, came into this season at a breakneck pace. They continued to score on a Herculean pace, but added a defensive presence. It appeared as if the Miguel Herrera turn around project was nearly complete.
However, the dramatic upswings have plateaued for both clubs. Chivas have been gutted by the U-23 CONCACAF Pre-Olympic Tournament. Subsequently, they had a disappointing draw with Queretaro and, most recently, an unthinkable loss to Estudiantes Tecos. America's start to the season has proven itself to be fool's gold. Their six wins have come against the dregs Queretaro and San Luis; "the inconsistents" Pachuca, Pumas, and Chiapas; and their sister, Atlante. Of their four draws, two came against Tecos and Atlas, while they had a great deal of help in two draws against Toluca and Tijuana. Losses are starting to accumulate for America now that they are getting to the stiffer opposition.
The truth is that these two clubs belong neither at the top nor the bottom of the league. Neither stands out as a clear favorite in this match because in some ways there is so much unknown about the true potential of each squad. Both teams have been dearly missing players that were playing with the U-23 national team. It's hard to argue with how much America has missed Diego Reyes in defense, as they conceded six goals in their last two matches. Chivas's recent mediocre performances point to the absences of Miguel Ponce, Marco Fabian, and Erick 'Cubo' Torres. Can Chivas regain the form that they developed before losing a great number of their squad? Can America put their superior talent to use and secure a victory against a stronger side? This match should answer some questions for us.
The weight of this match might just be more than a win over a bitter rival. After this match America, currently in 5th place, have matches with Santos, Puebla, and Cruz Azul remaining. Chivas, currently in 11th place, will play Tigres, Atlas, and Pachuca. Either team would be lucky to come away with four points from those three matches. Therefore, three points this weekend will be crucial for Chivas's hopes to climb and America's desire to hold on.