The Liguilla is finally upon us. Tigres secured the final spot on Saturday evening with a convincing 3-0 win over Cruz Azul. With Club America's draw with Pumas UNAM, the matches are all set. In the Clasico Regio, top seed Monterrey will be facing Tigres, Pachuca will be facing Santos, and Leon will be going up against Morelia. In a match that many would have preferred in the final, Chivas will be facing their bitter rival, Club America.
Since the inception of the Liguilla format, Chivas and America have met in the playoffs ten times, with America holding the advantage as Chivas have only been able to advance past their rivals on two occasions. The America Liguilla dominance over Chivas does not stop there. In 20 games played, there have been 13 games won by America, four by Chivas, and three draws. The pièce de résistance for Club America and their fan base is the 1983-84 final, in which they defeated Chivas to capture their fourth league title.
The 2016 Clausura brings the 11th meeting between both teams, and although Club America won their head to head match during the season, the score line did not reflect the play from both teams. Chivas were the more dominant team that evening, but America would capitalize on the few opportunities they had. In a game that ended with both teams fielding 10 men, America squeaked away with the victory.
Since that loss, however, Chivas have been on a tear. They ended the season with six wins and one draw—including a resounding 3-1 victory over league leaders Rayados de Monterrey in their home stadium. Matias Almeyda has been able to completely turn this team around, and a team that was once on the verge of relegation enters the playoffs as the hottest team in the league.
Club America, on the other hand, come into the Liguilla stumbling with only three wins since the Clasico Nacional and arrive winless in their last four games. The team that once had a clear hold on 2nd place in early April was lucky to have held on to the 4th spot when the season ended.
Many may point out that their recent league struggles come as the team clinched the CONCACAF Champions Cup, but a loss to Chivas, in the quarterfinals, would be deemed a failure and could put their coach, Ignacio Ambriz, out of a job.
The first leg is set for Thursday evening at Estadio Omnilife, and Almeyda's herd will look not only to avenge the loss at home during the regular season but will also look to turn around what has historically been a one-sided rivalry in the playoffs. Ambriz and his wounded Aguilas are flying very low as of late, and a match-up in the quarterfinals against their streaking rivals is surely not what they would have wanted as Chivas will look to deal the first blow.
Prediction: 2-0 Chivas