Mexico's biggest club prize is on the line as Monterrey face Pachuca in the Liga MX final. The first leg will take place this Thursday at the Estadio Hidalgo in Pachuca.
A fifth league title beckons for Monterrey, with Los Rayados eliminating rivals Tigres and Club America in the Liguilla. Antonio "Turco" Mohamed's men are undeniably effective in front of goal and more often than not are well-balanced with experience and composure at the back.
Of all the collective characteristics of this team, however, the most telling trait in this final may be the absence of one of their key players. Carlos Sanchez will miss both legs against Pachuca after the Uruguay national team refused to allow their player to take part. Sanchez later released a statement claiming he was hurt by the decision but indicated he had already committed to help his national team ahead of next month's Copa America Centenario.
Sanchez's absence will be a big blow for Monterrey. His arrival in January underlined the shift towards a team dominated by their front four attackers. Of course, even without Sanchez, Edwin Cardona, Dorlan Pabon, and Rogelio Funes Mori are capable of dominating almost any opponent.
Both of Pachuca's center backs will know this well. The addition of Oscar Murillo and Omar Gonzalez was probably Pachuca's most important decision of the season. Both aren't the quickest defenders but they are arguably one of the best defensive pairings in the reading of the game.
In the grander scheme of things, though, Pachuca are an attacking team. The way they played the ball in the semifinal second leg against Leon was significant. It showed that Pachuca are the more competent when pushing forward on the ball.
Their attacking line is undoubtedly one of the brightest, with Hirving Lozano the more noteworthy for his speed and technique. He may well be the key to getting something from this leg if Pachuca want to finish the season as champions.
Match date/time: Thursday 9:06pm EST, 8:06pm local
Venue: Estadio Hidalgo, Pachuca, Mexico
TV: NBC Universo
Streaming: NBC Deportes En Vivo Extra