Chivas, Club America face different kinds of struggles ahead of Clasico
The easy way to frame Liga MX's Clasico Nacional on Saturday in Estadio Azteca is that both Club America and Chivas are struggling at present and need a lift with games in the 2019 Apertura regular season quickly running out.
It's true: America has gone six leagues games without a win and Chivas are down in 15th position.
But dig below the surface and the clubs are in very different places ahead of a game that is Mexico's biggest and will grip the nation despite the poor form of its participants.
Directionless Chivas in coaching change
The majority of Chivas fans got what they wanted this week when the club announced on Thursday that Tomas Boy was out as head coach. It followed a 4-2 loss on Tuesday to Pachuca in which "Boy out" chants rung around Estadio Akron. Speculation about who would be taking over was abruptly ended a few hours later when Chivas confirmed the experienced Luis Fernando Tena as Boy's replacement.
The 2012 Olympic gold medal winner is a competent manager and said the usual things about wanting to be at the club for a long time at his unveiling, but it's not exactly an inspiring choice.
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And this is club in need of some inspiration.
If the abysmal Veracruz -- currently on a 37-game winless streak -- hadn't been allowed to continue in Liga MX for this Apertura, Chivas would be last in the relegation table. There's a sense that inexperienced president Amaury Vergara may not have the finances at his disposal to seriously compete, while clubs like Monterrey and Tigres -- who also face of Saturday in the Clasico Regio -- continue to spend freely.
Tena will make his debut as Chivas coach on Saturday, thus becoming the 11th manager in the last 10 years at the club and the 24th since Jorge Vergara took over as owner in 2002.
The 61-year-old is confident that the coaching change will bring the uplift required and that he'll enjoy a long stint at the club, contrary to what has previously happened.
"The team has played well, it's had bad luck in some games and not won the points it deserved," said Tena on Thursday. "It's about lifting confidence and the joy of playing."
Tena said the club has "the weapons to play and to win" and his use of Oribe Peralta will be a point of interest on Saturday. Peralta was inspirational in the 2012 Olympics, but the 35-year-old has failed to do anything of note since making a controversial summer switch from America to Chivas.
America looking to get back on track
While America is in fifth in the Liga MX table, five draws and one loss in its last six matches has seen Las Aguilas' season stall in recent weeks.
Seven injuries for America over recent weeks, including to key players Nicolas Castillo, Bruno Valdez, Nicolas Benedetti and Henry Martin (Castillo's natural replacement), haven't helped a club still adapting to the sales of Mateus Uribe, Agustin Marchesin and Edson Alvarez.
But while Chivas' issues feel deep-rooted and long-standing -- they've won just over half the amount of point as America over the last 79 games -- Las Aguilas' problems are likely more temporary. There are holes in the squad, but they are primed to challenge for the title if they can regain some form and have money in the bank from the summer sales.
We'll see on Saturday whether the differing realities play out in Estadio Azteca, where America has lost only four times in 40 Liga MX games since the start of 2018. Chivas will have to overcome the odds if the all-Mexican team is to win for the first time in five games against its bitter Mexico City rival.