The Liguilla is finally upon us and for the third straight time in the Almeyda Era, Chivas will start their run by playing a Clasico. This time though, the Clasico being played is against crosstown rivals Atlas. After weeks of floundering, Chivas were able to finish in the top three, because if there is anything Liga MX provides, it is parity. Atlas for their part squandered their chance to finish in the top three of the table in the final week of the season and now is set to play two away games in the first round of the Liguilla.
This will be the fourth time a Clasico Tapatio is being played in a Liguilla, with Chivas advancing to the next round two of the last three times. The last time both teams met in the Liguilla was two years ago in the Clausura 2015, where Chivas trounced their rivals 4-1 on their way to semifinals. Chivas also holds the edge in the rivalry this season as they defeated Atlas 2-1 in Estadio Jalisco, which will be the seed of the first leg on Thursday night.
Heading into Thursday night’s match, Chivas is a much different team than the team that defeated Atlas back in February. In fact, of the eleven starters that played that night, four of them might not play in the series at all due to injury. Injuries to key players have hurt the team, particularly because the players that have come on have not stepped up. The absences of Angel Zaldivar, Rodolfo Pizarro, Isaac Brizuela and Aris Hernandez have been deafening and heading into the Liguilla this is cause for concern. If Chivas is to make the run everyone is expecting them to make, these players must return for the quarterfinals or Chivas’ dream at a “doblete” could end fairly quickly.
Atlas has also had their fair share of injuries this season, most notably the loss of their leader Rafa Marquez, who has been out for the majority of the season. Unlike Chivas though, Atlas were able to fight through those injuries to turn their season around. The Zorros went undefeated in the month of April thanks to a surging Matias Alustiza, who scored five of his eight goals during this month. Alustiza’s April performance helped propel the club into the Liguilla, and although they lost on the final week of the season, the team has the fire power to surprise their crosstown rivals.
Both teams need a victory and strong showing Thursday night, but all of the pressure is on Chivas and Matias Almeyda. With all of the hype that has been building around this season, Chivas must strike quick and early to relieve some of the pressure against an Atlas team who will sit back and play towards Chivas’ mistakes.
Date: Thursday, May 11
Time: 7:30 PM Pacific, 9:30 PM Central, 10:30 PM Eastern
Venue: Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara, Mexico
Television: Univision Deportes (US-Spanish), Azteca 7 (Mexico)
Want to know more about the the Clásico Tapatío? Check out the latest video from KICK TV