It's the Liga MX Apertura final that almost every neutral – and the city of Monterrey especially – was desperately hoping for.
Monterrey, which finished first in the regular season, will face second-place finisher and crosstown rival Tigres in the final.
It's the first time Liga MX will ever see a Clasico Regio final, and it kicks off with the first of two legs on Thursday at Tigres' home of Estadio Universitario.
|Game||Tigres vs Monterrey|
|Date||Thursday, December 7|
|Time||9:00 p.m. ET|
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SQUADS & TEAM NEWS
|Goalkeepers||Guzman, Palos, Fernandez, Ortega|
|Defenders||Kolodziejczak, Ayala, Juninho, Meza, Torres, Acosta, Jimenez, Estrada, Rodriguez|
|Midfielders||Carioca, Duenas, J. Torres, Vasquez, R. Torres, Zelarayan, Aquino, Quiñones, Alvarez, Sosa, Damm|
|Forwards||Valencia, Gignac, Vargas|
After suffering a right adductor muscle injury in the first leg of the semifinal against Club America, Tigres center back Juninho missed the second leg and is now in doubt for the final.
Francisco Meza replaced Juninho in the second leg against Club America and performed well, meaning he is likely to start again in the first leg of the final.
Potential starting XI: Guzman; Torres Nilo, Ayala, Meza, Rodriguez; Aquino, Duenas, Carioca, Vargas; Gignac, Valencia.
|Goalkeepers||Gonzalez, Carrizo, Resendez|
|Defenders||Montes, Basanta, Sanchez, Portales, Alvarez, Vangioni, Castillo, Fuentes, Medina, Juarez|
|Midfielders||Molina, Ortiz, Zavala, J. Gonzalez, Cardozo, Sanchez, Hurtado, A. Gonzalez|
Monterrey's top scorer Aviles Hurtado missed out on the second leg of the semifinal with a muscular injury, and his status for the final is up in the air.
Losing Hurtado would be a significant blow for Rayados, but it didn't affect them in the second leg against Morelia as they still won 4-0 without the former Club Tijuana striker.
Potential starting XI: Gonzalez; Vangioni, Basanta, Sanchez, Medina; Sanchez, Cardozo, Gonzalez; Benitez, Funes Mori, Pabon.
They were the two best teams in the regular season, and Tigres and Monterrey now both enter the final with plenty of momentum after comprehensive victories in the semifinal.
Tigres defeated Club America 4-0 on aggregate in the semifinal, as Enner Valencia's brace in the second leg gave Tuca Ferretti's side a 3-0 victory at the Estadio Universitario.
Similarly, Monterrey cruised to an easy semifinal second-leg win, as Rogelio Funes Mori's hat trick led Rayados to a 4-0 win over Morelia, and a 5-0 victory on aggregate.
Having posted the best scoring record and the stingiest defense in Liga MX over the regular season, Antonio Mohamed's Monterrey side will go into the two-leg tie as the clear favorite.
Rayados will be further boosted by their 2-0 win over Tigres on the final day of the Apertura regular season on Nov. 19 – the only meeting between the rivals during the season.
That game did take place at Monterrey's home ground, the Estadio BBVA Bancomer. Tigres will know if they are to have any shot in this two-leg affair, they must get off to a strong start at home in the first leg.
Ferretti's men were nearly flawless at the Estadio Universitario in the Apertura, winning seven and drawing one of their eight home matches.
Boosted by their strong home form and the potential absence of Monterrey top scorer Aviles Hurtado, Tigres should be optimistic about securing a positive result in the first leg.
That would leave it all to play for in Sunday's second leg, where a potential classic could be on the cards at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer.