The battle for the Liga MX Apertura title begins at the Estadio BBVA in Guadalupe, Mexico, on Thursday when Monterrey will host America in the first leg of this year's final.
Miguel Herrera coached America to the Apertura last year and hopes to bring the title back to Mexico City as a late Christmas present despite a run of inconsistent form.
Monterrey only recently returned from the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup in Doha, Qatar, where they defeated Al Hilal on penalties to finish in third place.
Los Rayados haven't lost a game at home since September 29 and look to be intimidating hosts for the first leg, while titleholders America will hope their experience provides the key to securing an important result in Guadalupe.
Date: Thursday, December 26
Time: 9:36 p.m. ET/2:36 a.m. GMT (Friday, Dec. 27)
Venue: Estadio BBVA, Guadalupe, Mexico
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go (U.S.)
TV Info: Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes (U.S.)
Tigres have been the most successful team this decade in the Apertura, but defending champion America—who finished the regular season in sixth place—edged them out of the way in this year's quarter-finals.
Monterrey haven't clinched this title since they won back-to-back Apertura crowns in 2009-10, and ESPN FC's Tom Marshall highlighted their final foes as a much stronger force in the competition this past decade:
Striker Rogelio Funes Mori has 10 goals in Liga MX this season—two off the top-scorer status—and he'll be motivated to make up that gap in the remaining two fixtures this year.
America opened up the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City to the public for their training session, and fans reminded players of their loyalty and the importance of this fixture before the team traveled to Guadalupe:
Monterrey—who finished seventh in the regular season—have been otherwise distracted from their domestic commitments after finishing third at the Club World Cup on Saturday.
Los Rayados fell victim to a late Roberto Firmino decider in their semi-final clash against eventual champions Liverpool, though the Reds found it anything but simple to advance:
That was Antonio Mohamed's first defeat in 15 matches since he returned to the club's helm in early October, though that pristine record against Mexican teams remains intact.
Monterrey celebrated the achievements of goalkeeper Luis Cardenas after he played a major role in their third-place play-off win over Saudi Arabian outfit Al Hilal:
Arturo Gonzalez and Maximiliano Meza found the target for Mohamed's side at the Khalifa International Stadium to claim third place.
Their title chances in Liga MX look far more favourable, though, and America will hope Thursday's hosts are still suffering the effects of the long journey ahead of the first leg.
Monterrey have won their last four home games and are unbeaten in six at the Estadio BBVA, while America have scored four and conceded four in their last two away games.
The two teams will reconvene at the Estadio Azteca on Sunday for the deciding leg, but each finalist will hope to book a big enough advantage before then.