Once an occasion that brought Guadalajara to a halt and divided its inhabitants, this weekend's Clasico Tapatio is more of a cause to mourn the declining fortunes of Chivas and Atlas.
Two of Mexico's traditional clubs clash inside the Estadio Omnilife on Sunday for the latest edition of Mexico’s oldest clasico, first played back in 1916. The hard-core fans will be in the stadium and there is some local pride at stake, but little else.
Chivas and Atlas are level on seven points after 11 rounds of matches in the Liga Bancomer MX’s Apertura season, although Guadalajara does have a game in hand. Neither can realistically make the playoffs and there are still 10 weeks left until a new champion is crowned.
Chivas have won just once in their last 17 matches in the Liga MX, while Atlas hasn't won in 15 games, its last three points coming April 20 against Chivas.
This is nothing particularly new. Barring the odd — almost freak — good season in recent years, both have gravitated toward the bottom of the table, and both of Guadalajara’s “giants” are in the race against dropping to Mexico’s Ascenso MX.
Chivas sit on 91 points in the Liga MX’s relegation table — worked out over the past six short seasons — with Atlas second from last on 83 points.
It is a sad state of affairs, with the rivalry between them going all the way down to the youth level, where they traditionally battle for the best talent in western Mexico. In recent years, Chivas have exported players like Javier Hernandez, Carlos Salcido and Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez to Europe, while Atlas’ Colomos training ground has spawned Rafael Marquez, Andres Guardado and Pavel Pardo.
The week leading up to the clasico has given more examples of why each club finds itself in the situation it is.
Atlas announced it was set to terminate the contract of captain and fan favorite Leandro Cufre on Saturday, with the president telling the local press it was because he was interfering with things inside the club that weren’t his responsibility. The rumor was that former Roma defender Cufre was trying to oust coach Omar Asad from his job, which he denied.
The issue was resolved the following day and Cufre rejoined training, but not before expressing his inconformity that he found out about the president’s plans to remove him while listening to the radio on the way home from Saturday’s game against Veracruz.
On top of the short-term infighting, Atlas’ financial problems have been well-documented, although the club could be sold in the near-to-medium future with efforts underway to change its legal status.
Over at Chivas, Wednesday’s Copa MX draw in the Omnilife against Leon’s reserve team pretty much ended their season in any meaningful, trophy-challenging way. It was a sloppy, listless display plagued with a crippling lack of confidence and almost fear that has haunted the club this season.
Their recent history has been of chopping and changing at the whim of owner Jorge Vergara, whose vision for the club is difficult to pin down when you consider the wild swings in personnel running the club. There have been a total of 16 coaches in the almost 11 years Vergara has owned Chivas and a conveyor belt of sporting presidents that have the club sailing like a rudderless ship.
Of course, none of the above will stop celebrations if Chivas or Atlas comes out on top, but it is a damning indictment of the state of Guadalajara’s teams, with Estudiantes Tecos also relegated from the first division last year.
Expect empty seats in the Omnilife on Sunday, something that should be unimaginable considering the size of the clubs and the fact that the greater Guadalajara region has more than 4 million inhabitants.