America starts their week of Clasico games on Tuesday when they start the Copa MX Round of 16 with a meeting with their city rivals Cruz Azul. Although all eyes are on their Saturday game against Chivas (the biggest sporting rivalry in Mexico), both teams are going to have great tests in Copa MX, with Chivas also facing their city rivals Atlas on Tuesday. While the league clash is the most important match of the season, this game has the most immediate impact as it starts the Round of 16 clash as only the winner goes through to the Quarterfinals. The match has the added interest that both America and Cruz Azul are in Liguilla spots and are both coming in with positive momentum from successful seasons.
Although America started their Copa MX season with a disastrous loss against Atlas at home, they quickly turned it around and won their next three games. Still, unlike the league, their wins always came in close games. America came from a favorable result in a tie against Tijuana but they lost their standout defensive player, Edson Alvarez in the game. While the injury didn't look as bad, it was bad enough to rule him out of both games this week.
Although many teams don't play with their best players in Copa MX, America has been using a lot of first teamers, and with Cruz Azul coming in, it must be expected that they will have as close their Liga MX lineup as possible. This should help the team but it might also hinder them, as they might have their eyes on Saturday's Superclasico along with the rest of Mexico.
While America might be distracted by the more important game on Saturday, Cruz Azul and their fans have this game as their priority. America is Cruz Azul's biggest rival and their Saturday game against Queretaro is one of their least important games on the season. Cruz Azul and their fans are riding their most positive wave in years with a 16 game undefeated streak in all competitions. They won their Copa MX group, which they shared with Tigres and their elite squad. They are also in Liguilla territory, something they haven't reached since 2014.
But even-though they are undefeated, many fans haven't been on board with their level of play. While many expected coach Paco Jemez to have an offensive team, they have been lacking in the final touch and thus are a very low scoring team. It's no question that they are expected to be the less offensive team on Tuesday. The game will also be in the stadium and against the team that last beat them in a league final. Yet it's worth noting that in their last Copa MX knockout game, it was Cruz Azul who defeated them in Azteca in the 2013 Copa MX Semifinal.
America is favored is slightly to defeat Cruz Azul. America is higher up than Cruz Azul and has the better squad, although Cruz Azul will be a tough team. Jemez has finally clicked with the squad and the undefeated streak isn't the prettiest but it's no accident either. It will be a good test for America and a preview of what happens on Saturday, when the eyes of the nation will be in Azteca for the Superclasico.
Date: Tuesday, September 19
Time: 6:00 PM Pacific, 8:00 PM Central, 9:00 PM Eastern
Venue: Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, Mexico
Television: Unimas (US-Spanish), TVC Deportes (Mexico), ESPN Mexico (Mexico), TDN (Mexico)
Streaming: fuboTV (Free trial + monthly subscription)
Listings via LiveSoccerTV.com.