Cruz Azul v Chivas Preview: It's Kind of a Big Deal

Six reasons why you should watch this Saturday: 
1.       Relevance

It’s the Mexico City giant against the Corazon of Mexico. La Maquina hosting the Rojiblancos. It doesn’t have a cool name like some matchups, but it’s kind of a big deal. Cruz Azul and Chivas of Guadalajara face off this Saturday at Estadio Azul. The stadium will be packed with supporters of both squads. The chance to beat and possibly humiliate a hated rival will be on the line. But more than that, two new coaches and two revitalized teams will be looking to set a tone for the remainder of their season.

2.       The Cruz Azul Redemption Story

For a team that is one of the most successful in Mexico, a fifteen year championship drought can seem a little long. It’s even more so considering there are two seasons every calendar year. Two chances every year to get back on top that have ultimately ended in disappointment. With the fan base beginning to reek of needy desperation, management made some big splashes this offseason. The additions of Pablo Barrera, Mariano Pavone, and Luis Perea created a a great deal of interest and excitement. I would argue that each of these signings is repetitive to the strengths that the squad already possesses, but undoubtedly the club is deeper than it has been in a while. Missing out on the Liguilla last season seems to have awoken the team and made them more ambitious in their signings.

This match could be important in setting a tone moving forward. Are Cruz Azul ready to move back among the top of the table contenders, or will they remain a squad fighting for a Liguiila place?

3.       Recent History

In addition to being two teams with highly competitive fan bases (if not always highly competitive squads), their recent matches have added to the contentiousness.  None of the last three meetings ended with the complete number of players on the pitch. This past season’s meeting at the Estadio Omnilife, saw Cruz Azul carry 1-0 lead until the 88th minute. Chivas capitalized twice in the final minutes and took the three points. The second goal came on a penalty after Nestor Araujo head butted (in classic Cruz Azul style), Cubo Torres in the waning minutes of stoppage time. The previous two matches, both in Mexico City, ended drawn even despite the fact that a team was downed to ten men in the first half. The trend points toward things getting interesting during this match.  

4.       Where is Chivas Headed?

The Johan Cruyff experiment started last season, but the true implementation under new manager John Van’t Schip has just begun. While they have lost both matches under their new manager, they have shown some signs of life. Despite this, dating back to last season, they are on a seven match losing streak. Chivas desperately need a result from this match. It’s definitely too early to judge the progress of the new regime in Guadalajara, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. With an owner that has proven himself to be a little unstable, Chivas need to start securing points or things can get ugly. Three points at Estadio Azul would go a long way toward legitimizing the efforts of Van’t Schip.

5.       Roster Shuffles

El Tri’s run in the Olympic games will be keeping some key components out of each of these rosters.  Cruz Azul will be forced to once again send Non-Corona (Yosgart Gutierrez) on to the field, which is always a perilous endeavor. Javier Aquino’s absence is always felt acutely when he is missing.

Chivas will also be without some key components. Miguel Ponce has proven himself to be a important part of the defense. Marco Fabian will be missed most of all. He has been and will likely be once he returns, the lynchpin of the Chivas attack.

These absences will be missed, but they also open up slots for some interesting players. With Chivas’s young players missing, the door is opened for even younger players. Cruz Azul got some sparks of an in-form Pablo Barrera last week in San Luis. If he can continue to progress, he could have a big impact in this match.

6.       Chance to See Me on TV

I’ll be the guy in blue cringing every time the ball comes near Non-Corona.