There's no shortage of hype - legitimate or not - for Thursday's first leg and Sunday's second as Mexico's biggest teams, Club America and Chivas, meet in the Liga MX quarterfinals for the second-straight tournament. It is "the game of games, the rivalry of rivalries!"
The media is promoting, fans are excited, owners are tweeting jabs and players are speaking about how much the rivalry means to them. Most players, at least. One exception is America's Dawrin Quintero.
"To be champion, you always need to win against whoever," Quintero said this week. "Now we're up against Chivas, and the Liguillas are always like this, exciting, no matter the team you might face."
Maybe the shrug toward the rivalry is understandable for the 29-year-old. Quintero is just happy to be back on the field, no matter who the opponent is. A painful blood-clot issue in his right leg sidelined the Colombian in early September, and many thought his season was over. But the "Scientist of the Goal" returned to the America starting lineup in last week's regular season finale against Pachuca and impressed with two assists for Silvio Romero in the 3-3 draw.
That pair of assists takes him to five, a number that leads the team despite the fact he's played just eight matches in the Apertura. After the impressive return, it seems that Quintero and Romero will again partner together up top as America heads into the playoffs hoping not only to beat a rival that has won both editions of the rivalry that have been contested since the summer break.
In fact, Saturday's good performance stood in sharp contrast to Quintero's last match against rival Chivas. He played for just a half, getting the hook at the break when Chivas already led 2-0 in a match they'd go on to win 3-0, an embarrassing result against a rival made all the worse by the fact that it came inside the Estadio Azteca.
But that was before manager Nacho Ambriz was fired and replaced by Ricardo La Volpe, a veteran manager whose team has avoided defeat since he took the reins. La Volpe has shown a surprising willingness to mix up his system after garnering a reputation as a rigid tactician at previous stops. That's why there's hope
A player like Quintero could make the difference for America against Chivas. The back is where Chivas is strongest, but Quintero's wide ranging points of attack could cause Chivas' Orbelin Pineda to stay back with defensive midfield partner Michael Perez. That might allow Rubens Sambueza more room to operate, as it did against Pachuca when the Argentine fed a number of passes to Quintero that were turned into scoring chances.
Though he's been back for just one match, America's players already see Quintero as a critical piece to have on the field both for his ability and his veteran presence.
"Quintero has showed that he's in good form, that he has a lot of desire," goalkeeper Moises Munoz said. "That's something that has helped us a lot, it's spread through the team and this makes us calm, having players with a lot of experience."
If America can somehow get past Chivas and on the road to a title in its 100th season, Quintero's comeback could be remember as a heroic one. First, though, he'll have to help Las Aguilas past the Guadalajara side. After all, Quintero might be happy to play anyone he comes up against, but for fans of the club, this one is special.