Copa MX Clasico Nacional: Chivas to spoil party, America to salvage pride?
Another highly anticipated edition of Mexico's Clasico Nacional is upon us, with Chivas traveling to Estadio Azteca to take on Club America in the semifinals of the Copa MX. ESPN FC asked our writers Tom Marshall in Guadalajara and Nayib Moran in Mexico City to set the scene for the historic clash.
Tom Marshall: Chivas are set to field the same alternative Copa MX starting XI against Club America that led them to the semifinals. This may sound strange given the importance of the match, but Chivas' "B" team is still very strong. It will probably include Carlos "Gullit" Pena, Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez, Jair Pereira, Oswaldo Alanis, Miguel Ponce, Eduardo "Chofis" Lopez and Alan Pulido.
Chivas will seek to take the game to Club America, as Matias Almeyda instructs his team to do whenever and wherever they play. And America, under new coach Ricardo La Volpe and in Estadio Azteca, is absolutely obliged to go out and attack Chivas. It should be a barnstorming encounter, with one of Mexico's "big two" set for the Copa MX final and the other heartbreak.
Nayib Moran: In the La Volpe era, which is officially one month old, America has won all of its home games, including Copa MX matches against Veracruz and Chiapas. What's worth noting is that all of the wins have been by one-goal margins -- 2-1 vs. Pumas, 1-0 vs. Veracruz, 1-0 vs. Club Tijuana and 3-2 vs. Chiapas.
Las Aguilas will need to find defensive stability against a Guadalajara side that enjoys attacking from the wings, an area where La Volpe has yet to find the right pair of wing-backs to protect the flanks. The coach could end up going with the same duo that he selected for the Tijuana game -- Renato Ibarra and Miguel Samudio -- but if the latter is not fit come match time, Osmar Mares could take his place. We'd be remiss to forget that Mares was dismantled by Isaac Brizuela and "Chofis" Lopez's speed in the last edition of the Clasico Nacional.
What's at stake
TM: There is a lot at stake in every Clasico Nacional. It's the passion of the province against the flashy Mexico City powerhouse, the all-Mexican Chivas against the foreign-dominated Club America, and it's an encounter that pits Mexico's most popular and successful clubs against each other.
This time around, the match matters even more than usual. Even though it is in the Copa MX, it is a semifinal and, crucially, it falls in Club America's centennial season. Chivas took the Liga MX game 3-0 on Aug. 27 in Estadio Azteca and fans haven't stopped boasting about ruining Las Aguilas' celebration since. But no one expected Club America to have a shot at redemption. This is another chance for Chivas to spoil the America party, or for Las Aguilas to salvage some pride.
NM: To lose back-to-back home games against its hated archrival would be a shot to the heart for America. However, La Volpe will still have the Liguilla to make amends. America fans will forget about the losses against Chivas if it's their team lifting the Apertura championship by mid-December. If that doesn't happen, the centennial season will be remembered as one of the club's darkest moments in recent times.
Player to watch
TM: Alan Pulido -- Nursing a slight knock, Pulido was nevertheless back in full training on Monday. This is a huge opportunity for the striker to really enamor Chivas' fans.
NM: Michael "Miky" Arroyo has scored three goals in Las Aguilas' last three games. Since joining America in the 2014 Apertura, he has scored clutch goals that will remain in Americanistas' minds for years to come. They've always come during crucial moments for the team. Not only this, his dribbling and daring attitude are a welcome sight for demanding crowds. Fans go to Azteca to see a spectacle, and when Arroyo is at an optimal level, as he is now, they usually leave the stadium talking about his performance.
TM: Chivas lost 2-1 against Pachuca on Sunday, but fans left Estadio Chivas singing and dancing, with the team unlucky not to come away from the game with a result. There is a real feel-good atmosphere surrounding Chivas in Guadalajara and a lot of it has to do with Almeyda. He has the team dominating games -- if not always winning -- and confidence is high. Fans think that this Chivas team can hand Club America another battering like back in August.
Fan rating: 9/10
NM: It can be said that since La Volpe left Mexico's national team job, he had not had a chance to coach a team as complete as America. And after a good opening run of games, Americanistas feel that he is capable of reverting the current situation and leading the team to a title. With La Volpe on the sidelines, the team appears more disciplined with less sending offs. Undoubtedly, a win over Chivas would put his likability rate through the roof and help Las Aguilas arrive in top shape to the upcoming Liguilla.
Fan rating: 8/10
TM: Club America 1-2 Chivas. The pressure is on America -- another defeat to Chivas this Apertura would go down in history in America's centennial year. The team from Guadalajara can take advantage.
NM: 2-1 America. In their last three games, including its Copa MX match against Alebrijes, Chivas have only scored once from open play, while Club America has seen players like Silvio Romero and Oribe Peralta fail to convert easy scoring opportunities. Nevertheless, America's attacking flare could return on Wednesday with Arroyo paving the way.