The Clasico Regio has, in recent years, been a battle between two competitive teams. The rivalry is fierce, with both Tigres and Monterrey wanting control of the city. With no geographic divide in the city, the days following this weekend's match will be filled with neighbors treating neighbors to tacos, friends buying a friend a caguama or just money trading hands with everyone wagering their team will be the one who brings home three points.
It's not the biggest derby in the past few years - the December 2017 meetings with a title on the line for the first time in history will long be remembered as the most important clashes in the 44-year history with 1996's 51st meeting that sent Tigres down also still remembered. Yet the team's contest Sunday goes beyond simply getting bragging rights and allowing your fans to puff out their chest a bit.
Expectations are high, in no small part because each team has plenty of resources. Don't buy it? Just look at Antonio Mohamed's recent comments, in which the former Rayados manager said that at Celta Vigo he's making half what he would be had he simply pressed on in Monterrey instead of leaving the club in the summer to try his luck in the European game. So that makes missing the playoffs a pretty big miss. It's Diego Alonso's first season at the helm of Rayados and his team has been hit by injuries. Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti's stint with the Mexico national team plus frequent commitments outside of the league have made it tough for his side to get into a rhythm. Neither manager would be let off easy by their fans - or by club directors whose expectations are much higher.
It's a closely packed race in Liga MX as we round the halfway turn. Rayados sit sixth with 16 points but could vault up to second with a victory. Tigres are one place and two points behind their rivals. After the Clasico, Tigres face three more teams currently in the playoff positions. A home rivalry defeat plus a tough upcoming schedule could send Tigres spiraling. That's especially true with Ferretti set to step away to lead the national team once again in October - just after a match with America and before a game against Pumas.
Then there's the fatigue factor, with the majority of the team taking part in the Campeones Cup during the week and returning Thursday from Toronto. Tigres are casting it as an advantage rather than an issue, and a controversial decision to play the match Sunday rather than Saturday, as was originally scheduled, with the match giving them momentum despite the long trip.
"I think it gives us a lot of confidence," right back Luis "Chaka" Rodriguez said Friday of the 3-1 win. "It's a title that we needed and for the Clasico I think we come in on good form. We couldn't have come into it better."
Rayados aren't exactly strong in their position either. After rolling along in second place, a 4-2 home defeat to Chivas on Saturday was Monterrey's second consecutive defeat and sent the club tumbling four spots down the table. While it should be just as easy to jump back up the table, there were some flaws exposed in the defeat.
That hasn't escaped the notice of the fans wearing stripes this week, many of whom are quietly harboring concern that the team's skid could be extended. "What I'd ask them is that they'd keep being confident in us," defender Nicolas Sanchez said. "Beyond this dip in results that we've had, we're thinking about the same thing and the dream is still the same - we want to be great. The goal is to win the tournament. In the short term, we want to give them a Clasico win this weekend, but we can't lose sight of the overall goal which is the one that comes in December."
It should be a good contest. Rayados may go to five at the back, with Monterrey journalist Edu Torres reporting that the team has worked on the alignment in training this week. With several key players injured or recovering from injuries, and strength in the midfield with Jonathan Gonzalez, Jesus Molina and Celso Ortiz at his disposal, he could make the switch to counter a Tigres team that wants to control the ball with Guido Pizarro and Rafael Carioca able to spread the ball from the midfield to Tigres' fast wingers who then create or look for Andre-Pierre Gignac.
No matter how they line up Sunday, neither team wants to be the favorite. "We accept they're the favorites," Rogelio Funes Mori said Tuesday with Rodriguez countering Friday by simply saying "No," when asked if Tigres are the favorite as the bookmakers and analysts have said.
That's because neither team wants to deal with any more pressure. They're already feeling it because of the Clasico, but also because of the knowledge that with neither team sitting in the top positions in the league Sunday's game could resonate far beyond simply an average rivalry contest.