Fresh from their sensational 4-0 thrashing away at rivals Guadalajara in El Super Clasico last week, America host Liga MX Torneo Clausura leaders Cruz Azul on Sunday.
The men from the capital suffered a shock loss to Atlas in Week 13 and are now just one point clear of Toluca at the top of the table.
A further eight points back lie America, who topped the Torneo Apertura table earlier in the season, looking to cement a top-eight finish to advance to the Liguilla.
With just four matches remaining of the Clausura campaign, both sides will be seeking important victories on their quest for Liga MX glory.
Venue: Estadio Azteca
Date: Sunday, April 6/Saturday, April 5
Time: 12 a.m. BST/7 p.m. ET
TV Info: Univision
Old scores to settle
During last season’s Clausura Liguilla campaign, America ended the dreams of Cruz Azul in the final in the cruellest of circumstances, with a penalty shootout victory.
Cruz Azul were just minutes away from victory in the second leg, leading 2-0 on aggregate, but late goals from Aquivaldo Mosquera and goalkeeper Moises Munoz in stoppage time sent the game into extra time.
Munoz, who was up for a corner as America piled on late pressure, stooped to head his side level on aggregate and send Estadio Azteca into raptures, as Football Panel reported via Twitter:
America went on to win on penalties to secure their 11th Liga MX title, leaving Cruz Azul three championships back on eight.
However, the Mexico City side have been in great form in this year’s Clausura, winning nine out of 13 games so far, and also have the better of America in recent meetings.
America’s win in the Clausura final is the club’s sole win in their last five meetings with Cruz Azul, per the America website.
With the form that the Blues have been in this year, they will be the slender favourites heading into Clasico Joven, but you can never write off this America side.
Their massive win against Chivas will have instilled confidence throughout the side, and the memories of last season’s remarkable Clausura Liguilla victory will remind them that anything is possible in football.
Key players and prediction
If America are to find a way past Cruz Azul on Sunday, then they’ll undoubtedly call on the experience of veteran striker Luis Rey.
After signing for the Eagles at the start of the campaign, Rey has gone on to notch 10 goals so far this season, including a brace in El Super Clasico.
Rey pounced twice in the opening 15 minutes to give America a strong advantage over Chivas, his second of which was a strike to remember.
The 34-year-old picked the ball up 25 yards from the Guadalajara goal and bent it effortlessly into the top corner.
It was a goal that deserved all the plaudits that it got, including those from ESPN’s Tom Marshall on Twitter:
Together with Raul Jimenez, who also scored against Guadalajara, Rey forms one of the most lethal strike partnerships in Liga MX, and Cruz Azul will need to rely heavily on their defence if they’re to keep them at bay on Sunday.
At the heart of that defence stands Julio Dominguez, who has been a stalwart for Sunday’s visitors throughout the campaign.
He was particularly impressive during Cruz Azul’s 1-1 draw with America during Torneo Apertura and spoke to Univision Futbol ahead of the encounter (translation courtesy of author):
"I see a close game, both teams have great squads, but I look at my team and we have worked hard. They’re going through a good spell, admittedly, they’re in first place for a reason but do not dismiss us, we will try to play well and do well.”
The same applies this time around with both sides harbouring players of true Liga MX quality, but it’s Cruz Azul that take up first position, with America now trying to knock them from their perch.
A close game is expected at Estadio Azteca, that’s for sure, but with form the all-important factor heading into Liguilla at the end of the campaign, both sides will see this as a must-win encounter.
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