A Club América side looking to bounce back from a disappointing defeat to Cruz Azul in the clásico joven will travel to a red-hot Monterrey side on Saturday with both clubs looking to consolidate their positions near the top of the table. Combine Monterrey's hot streak with América's high-powered attack and you have the recipe for the most intriguing and entertaining encounter of the weekend.
The midway point of the season is also upon us and with both clubs entrenched in tight playoff races and balancing other competitions, this is the time when a club can start looking to put together momentum to mount a successful playoff run. Monterrey look well on their way, but last weekend's defeat leaves América with a lot of questions to answer. Despite fielding a talented attack featuring the likes of Ángel Reyna, Matías Vuoso, Vicente Sánchez and Daniel, the team was not able to breach a capable Cruz Azul defense. While they certainly seem to be capable against top teams, the performance now begins to raise the question of whether clubs have figured out manager Carlos Reinoso's powerful offense. Reyna has been the man on fire in recent weeks but the pressure could be on if he and the América attack can't find the net against Monterrey, then things could get worrisome, especially considering their defensive record. It is a question, however, that América players have to put out of their heads, as the schedule moves on and there is little time for uncertainty.
Both clubs are in the midst of continental competition, with Monterrey coming off a 2-1 win over Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions League and América with a crucial trip to Fluminense coming up in the Copa Libertadores. Neri Cardozo and Sergio Santana (assisted by Luis Pérez) were on target for Monterrey in midweek, further demonstrating the versatility of an offense having to cope without its star man. Monterrey also carries the slight advantage of not having to play their Champions League return leg until April and can focus more on the league in the meantime, where they sit just three points behind city rivals UANL Tigres in Group A.
For Monterrey, perhaps the biggest advantage comes not from their opponents' tough schedule, but from the fact that Humberto Suazo finally came back from injury in the midweek match against Cruz Azul, entering off the bench in the 67th minute. He should be able to start for Monterrey this weekend, giving them a crucial boost to their attack. With Suazo back, Monterrey manager Victor Manuel Vucetich can count on a fully healthy squad coming off a streak of four wins in all competitions, having just conceded one goal, an impressive defensive record.
Club América carries with it a fairly clean bill of health, with the exception that Colombian defender Aquivaldo Mosquera is listed as doubtful, though many signs point to his availability for Saturday's game. América manager Carlos Reinoso will have to count on the explosiveness of his forward line to catch what is likely to be an attack-minded Monterrey side off guard. It is crucial, however, that América maintain some sense of defensive solidity, as they have conceded 11 goals in the past five games despite three wins in that time.
The reverse fixture of this tie in the Estadio Azteca ended 0-0 back in October, but given América's defensive struggles and both clubs' impressive (and healthy) attacking lineups, the smart money would be on a few goals being scored. Furthermore, you would have to look back nine games, to 2002, to find the last time these two played to a scoreless draw at the Estadio Tecnológico. While a loss at this stage might not necessarily be decisive, both teams know that a win against quality opposition can go a long way towards a good run, so expect some fireworks this evening in Monterrey.
You can catch Monterrey-América at 7pm on Telemundo.