Tom Marshall: Clasico buildup bubbling nicely

Mexico captain Francisco Rodriguez's switch (via a stint in Europe) to the other side will add spice to an already zest rivalry.
Province versus capital, all-Mexican power against a team infused with foreign talent and side known for promoting youth teamers versus one famous for its big-name, expensive stars.

The traditional ingredients of Mexico’s clasico between Chivas de Guadalajara and Club America are well-known and the fundamentals of a fierce soccer rivalry.

But despite the emotions involved for fans and players, there haven’t been many classic clasico’s in recent years, with games in recent memory between Chivas and Club America usually drab or one-way affairs that have failed to live up to the expectations.

On Sunday, that could change with plenty of reasons to think that the game in the Estadio Omnilife will be an open, attacking match with Mexico’s best-supported clubs going for the jugular.

For a start, both teams are right in the playoff fight, with a Chivas win on Sunday taking the Guadalajara club to within just two points of its Mexico City rival. That’s motivation to go out on the offense, and talk from the Chivas camp suggests it will do just that.

“I think we’ll go toe-to-toe against them, but in the knowledge that we can’t lose concentration,” said midfielder Luis Perez on Thursday.

America’s outlook is attacking by its very nature and talk on the other side of Mexico’s footballing divide suggests that the Aguilas too will go all-out for a victory that would severely dent Chivas’ playoff hopes.

“More than saying it is forbidden to lose, winning is obligatory,” America sporting director is quoting as saying in Record.

The pre-match needle has also already started, with players hyping up what is already an intense rivalry.

“I’ve always said it, I’m anti-America,” Chivas striker Miguel Sabah told Guadalajara reporters on Thursday, making sure newspaper editors are not short of a front page headline for Thursday morning editions.

He added: “Obviously these are games where it is them or you, so you defend your side.”

For the Aguilas, Argentine Rubens Sambueza has dismissed Chivas’ home advantage out of hand.

“Chivas fans don’t count for anything,” he said. “The important thing is that we don’t commit errors."

Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez’s return to Chivas is another factor in Sunday’s game, with Guadalajara fans likely to greet his entrance to the pitch by throwing fake bills in the air due to the perception he signed for America for the money.

There’s also the revenge America will want to extract after the 3-1 defeat in the Estadio Azteca last October, which has been coach Miguel Herrera’s lowest point at the club.

The Mexico City side will have to do it without Diego Reyes, who is suspended. Jorge Enriquez is set to start for Chivas, with Patricio Araujo missing out due to a red card in the team’s last game against Tigres.

In terms of preparation, Chivas has the upper hand having lost zero players to international duty and key members Hector Reynoso and Marco Fabian having recovered from injury. In comparison, America has had seven players leave the club to play international games in the two-week Liga MX break.

But this is a clasico and things don’t always go to plan, as Chivas midfielder Jorge Enriquez pointed out on Thursday.

“Results and the league position are forgotten. Everything is forgotten. It’s a game you only think about winning and you live it with intensity,” the Olympic gold medal winner said.

The bets have or are being placed, players in the two camps seem ready and both have even recorded a Harlem Shake video to be shown before the game on the big screens in the Estadio Omnilife. Sunday can’t come soon enough.

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