As the Liga MX Clausura quarterfinals get underway Wednesday night, second-seeded Club America will be expected to once again stamp their authority on local rivals Pumas in the first leg, just weeks after a rousing regular season match at the Estadio Azteca yielded a 1-0 win.
“The first thing I’m sure of is that it will be spectacular,” said confident America manager Miguel Herrera. With most America fans would be more than happy with a win of any kind, the promise of fireworks seems to be, quite frankly, superfluous. Except that Pumas boss Raul Torres Servin thinks the same.
"I think it's going to be a party, we want to give a good show,” the UNAM manager said.
Even then, matches between the sides haven't really been showcases for offensive explosions. Thus, Herrera's quotes might be a psychological ploy of sorts, with proven formulas in the past leading to America victories against their hated rivals.
These are four keys that the team needs to keep in mind prior to their first match.
Score the first goal
America needs to put pressure on Pumas right off the bat. Mexico's playoff system recently shifted to be more like the two-legged ties in Europe. So gone is the fact that any draw would see them through -- away goals count more than ever. Scoring at Ciudad Universitaria would force Pumas to score two goals right then and there. Two goals as the visiting side would make things near impossible for Pumas, especially if America flexes its home muscle three days later.
Take Javier Cortes out of the game
Figuratively, of course. The UNAM winger and 2012 Olympic gold medalist is Universidad's best player, without a doubt. His seven goals lead the team, and when he's not cutting towards the box to create mayhem, his short passing and crossing is among the league's best. America's wingbacks are not the defending tandem in the league, so added help from either Jesus Molina or one of the center backs is a must whenever Cortes is on the ball.
Don't get pulled into a physical match
Referees get nervous in derbies. They get even worse when those derbies could lead to a potential championship for one of the two teams. In their regular season matchup, two red cards threatened to stain what was actually, a really entertaining match and actually turned it into a better one. Even then, America can't fall into Pumas' tricks and be taken adrift by the passion of these types of matches. If Herrera keeps all 11 players on the pitch by the end of 90 minutes, it will certainly be an advantage for his squad.
Just give it to Rubens
America have yet to win a match this season without the talented Argentinian winger on the pitch. This is no coincidence. The team's offensive flow has a definite rhythm when Rubens Sambueza is in charge of proceedings. Last week's 2-0 loss to Tigres was a clear indicator of how toothless the team is when he's not on the field. Sambueza makes everyone around him clearly better.