Fresh from their victorious exploits in their respective Concacaf Champions League games midweek, the Monterrey clubs face a Clasico Regio showdown with first place at stake.
The Tigres and Monterrey are 1-2 in the Liga MX table and Saturday night’s Clasico Regio could allow the winner to pull away in the race for the top playoff seed. On the other hand, a tie could allow León to leapfrog both teams into first place.
The Monterrey derby is one of the best in the hemisphere and both clubs will be eager to show they are the best team in Liga MX. Both teams brought in veteran Team Mexico defenders during the winter transfer window – right back Miguel Layun from Spain and central defender Carlos Salcedo from Germany – adding to the undeniable squad quality that has them atop the standings.
Against the Houston Dynamo, the Tigres rested star striker Andre-Pierre Gignac and winger Javier Aquino (neither of whom made the trip to Texas) so they would be fully fit against the Rayados. But that did not prove helpful as neither Gignac nor Aquino has recovered sufficiently and both will be left out of the line-up Saturday night. That will take some of the luster off the match, but the Tigres have a loaded roster and Edu Vargas, Enner Valencia, Julián Quiñones and Luis Quiñones will be expected to pick up the slack.
All things considered – and each team has only a short time to recover for their respective return matches in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals next week – this game could not be any more important for both clubs and it could very likely be the game of the season.
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Chivas 0, Monterrey 2
Monterrey comfortably defeated the Chivas on the road last weekend, completely in control of the game despite going down to 10 men for the final 10 minutes. The Chivas did have a goal ruled out (correctly) for offsides that would have tied the game early in the second half. Monterrey displayed defensive stability and that should help against the Tigres, arguably the toughest team they will face this season. Two vital goals at either end of the match from forward Dorlan Pabon earned the Rayados a critical road win.
Tigres 3, Pachuca 0
The Tigres benefited from two own-goals in the first 32 minutes of the match and coasted to victory. Midfielder Guido Pizarro netted the clincher in the second half as he returns to form after a lengthy injury lay-off. The Tigres defense shut down an improving Pachuca team, never allowing the Tuzos to get comfortable in their offensive third.
Monterrey: Forward Dorlan Pabon and the rest of the Monterrey attacking line must be on point in this game, as they will undoubtedly have to be on their best form. Striker Rogelio Funes Mori has been in a scoring slump and Aviles Hurtado has been inconcsistent, but if they can put 1 or 2 past the Tigres defense, they will very much be in the game.
Tigres: Defender Carlos Salcedo will be a much needed leader in their back line as they battle to keep Monterrey out of their goal. The Team Mexico veteran will surely keep a close eye on Rayados striker Rogelio Funes Mori or his back-up Angel Saldivar, since both might see action.
This will be an exciting, fast-paced game contrasting the Rayados more vertical style with the Tigres more deliberate approach. There is a chance that both teams will be overly cautious, or cancel each other out and produce an unsatisfying draw. But neither club will be looking for that.
The two team are very evenly matched and the result could come down to official decisions. Hopefully it will be an exciting game for the neutrals in which we see plenty of goals. I am looking for a late winner and an exciting finish.