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Chivas vs. America, Clausura 2012: Clasico Features Lots of Dramatic Storylines

Chucho Benitez is in form, but he might not be around much longer.
Chucho Benitez is in form, but he might not be around much longer.

Another edition of the preeminent Mexican clasico is upon us, as Chivas host Club America Sunday in what is the most anticipated match every regular season (7 pm ET). As ever, the match is full of dramatic storylines, both on and off the field. It won't be surprising if the hype outpaces the actual match, but that remains to be seen. Let's take a look at some of the stories and form surrounding the clubs heading into the showdown.

Chivas: 15 points (4-3-6), 11th place through 13 rounds

On the field, Chivas have had a clausura tournament of extremes so far. They failed to get a win in their first seven fixtures, during which time they switched coaches and hired Dutch legend Johan Cruyff as an advisor. From the eighth match, they won four of five, so it looked like their fortunes had turned around and they might even recover enough to make the playoffs. But last week, when playing local rivals Estudiantes Tecos, the momentum stopped and they lost 1-0 to the team widely expected to be relegated at the end of the tournament. For good teams with a culture of stability, that loss could easily be shrugged off. But the attention surrounding Chivas means it will hover over the team heading into this match, and the squad will be under considerable pressure to bounce back quickly, against their biggest rivals, no less.

As a team, Chivas have only scored 10 goals in 13 games this year, and somewhat remarkably, Hector Reynoso is currently leading the team in goals, with four. Just prior to the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament, attacking stars Marco Fabian and Cubo Torres had started to click, and that form continued from Fabian with the Mexican U23s. Now that they are back, as well as Miguel Ponce (who also played well for Mexico) and Jorge Enriquez, there will be an expectation that the team can claw their way into the liguilla. But they will have to score goals at a much higher rate than they have thus far, and they will need to contain an America attack Sunday that features an in-form Christian Benitez. They are only three points out of the last playoff spot at the moment, but they ought to win to realistically keep their hopes alive. Can they recover from the loss to a desperate Tecos side and take care of business against America? That is question on the minds of Chivas fans heading into the match.

America: 22 points (6-4-3), 5th place through 13 rounds

America has enjoyed a much better clausura than Chivas, and are sitting comfortably in the liguilla mix. They are on a two-game losing streak, but those losses came to two teams sitting ahead of them in the standings, Morelia and Monterrey. Still, there's some drama surrounding America as well. First, prodigal son Angel Reyna returned to the Estadio Azteca, scored a very late gamewinner, and then celebrated provocatively (and some would argue tastelessly) in front of his former fans. Reyna's attitude helped drag the squad down last year, and while Chucho Benitez hasn't brought the drama to the club in Reyna's absence, he did publicly admit he's receptive to new offers in Europe this summer. In the short term, it could motivate las Aguilas to make the most of their time with him, as he currently sits atop the scoring list in the Primera. But it could also distract the club and cause the players to lose focus in losing their best player in a short time.

Aside from the drama surrounding America forwards past and present, they welcome midfielder/defender Diego Reyes back into the fold after the Mexico U23s at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. At only 19, Reyes has already become a fixture for the senior side, and has been given a great deal of responsibility. Although the Clasico is always a contentious and unpredictable fixture, America will be looking to get one over on Chivas, and they will have an edge heading into the match.