Two games on this week’s slate of games in the Mexican Clausura stand above all others. Unfortunately, the schedule makers do us no favors as they will be played simultaneously. Fire up the PIP.
The first game is a battle of the teams that have acquitted themselves the best in the Clausura: Pachuca and Toluca (Telefutura 8:00 ET). They have each won five league titles since the FMF switched to the short season format. This season, they sit atop the table, with Toluca 2 points ahead on 26 points. The diablos rojos have yet to lose this season. And amazingly, in spite of all of Toluca’s success this season, SGE did not call up one single chorizero on his last list.
Toluca has one of the league’s leading goal scorers in Chilean Hector Mancilla, the top two assist men in Carlos Esquivel and Zinha, and a goal keeper who has been playing at an extremely high level for Toluca since the analog age, Hernan Cristante. Occasionally defending champions in Mexico are afflicted with Campeonitis. Toluca has so far maintained their immunity, and are a safe bet to repeat for the first time msince my Pumas did so 5 years ago.
Pachuca keeps chugging along. In light of the disastrous tenure of the current FMF officers, chances are pretty high that Pachuca owner, Jesus Martinez, will be elected the new head of FMF next month. Martinez has converted an also-ran division jumper into juggernaut. The self-proclaimed “equipo de Mexico” have won a ton of trophies of the past ten years. A win tomorrow will vault them past Toluca into the first position in the table.
The game being played at the same time as the Pachuca-Toluca tilt is, for my money, the best derby in Mexico, and the second best rivalry game in the league: the clasico regiomontano between Monterrey and Tigres (telemundo 8:00 ET). Are other derbies older, more traditional? Sure. Have these two ever met in important liguilla games or finals. Hardly. But both squads have an unyielding fan bases. I’ll admit that their stadiums aren’t as big as others in the league, but you can sell a million tickets to this game, and there would still be a waiting list. As good as the other derbies are, you still see empty seats in the stands.
Monterrey started the season with their boots on fire, but have leveled off a bit. They staged an amazing comeback last week as they tied Atlas 2-2 with 9 mine on the pitch. Unfortunately, the two reds, Humberto “el chupete” Suazo and Panama’s Felipe Baloy are unavailable for the clasico regio.
As Monterrey mounts a charge toward the Liguilla, Tigres continue to fight off the specter of relegation. Jose Pekerman is now the coach, but has only managed to harvest 5 of 15 points. Omar Bravo was brought over on loan from Depor, has yet to score, and was heckled yesterday during a fan appreciation event. Welcome to Monterrey. He will not be available tomorrow.
I like the calsico regio, because above all, the games are always incredibly entertaining. The crowd looks and sounds great. There are always goals galore. And since neither team has won anything of note, well, ever, then this game is their super bowl, and the teams play with a great intensity. Lately, it’s been the Tigres fans who have left the stadium with a smile on their face. Monterrey has not won the clasico since 2006.