The biggest match of the Liga MX season is upon us! The two clubs from Mexico City do battle in Estadio Azteca in the nation’s capital. High stakes are on the line with both teams hanging on to playoff spots with just four matches to play. Can bettors find value in a match with so much attention?
This Sunday marks the 154th edition of Clasico Joven. The battle of Club America and Cruz Azul is a rivalry that dates back more than 60 years. Historically, competition has been extremely tight. In 153 matches, there have been 54 draws, 53 wins for Cruz Azul and 50 wins for Club America.
In total, just eight goals separate the two teams. This match has added importance with the end of the season nearing.
Both Club America and Cruz Azul are tied at fourth spot in the table with 22 points, just one point higher than Pachuca in the eight and final spot. A win in this match would be enormous for either sides hopes of making Liguilla at the end of the month.
After winning three straight matches against Puebla, Chivas and Tigres, Club America was making a push towards the top of the table. In a big match last Sunday against Club Tijuana, Las Aguilas were in control of the match at halftime.
Late in the second half, Xolos were gifted favourable called from VAR not once, but twice. Each instance, it led immediately to the equalizing and go-ahead goal.
After an extreme nine minutes of extra time to end the match, Estadio Caliente turned into a frenzy with Club America fans pelted Ariel Nahuelpan with anything they could get their hands on.
Club America was bet down from 2.52 to 2.93 with significant odds movement occurring in the 20 minutes leading up to kickoff. Club Tijuana bettors were rewarded with a marred 3-2 victory that kept them in the playoff scenarios.
There is little doubt that the focus of this Clasico is going to be on defence. America and Cruz Azul have conceded just 16 and 12 goals respectively in 13 matches.
Expectancy tells an equally convincing story with America allowing 0.93 expected goals against per match and Cruz Azul allowing 0.87 – both the two best marks in the league.
Even with their tight actual goal differential, both teams are underperforming their expected rates. Club America has a differential of nearly four goals, while Cruz Azul sits half a goal below. Offensively, both teams have been having success the past month, each playing four of their last five over 2.5 goals.
Club America may be underperforming on defence, but offensively they are more than six goals above expectancy, that is more than Leon who leads the league with 30 goals. Cruz Azul is above expectancy on offence too but only by a single goal.
Tactically this is a very interesting duel as neither side tends to push for possession. Club America most frequently lines up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with a strong midfield led by Mateus Uribe and Guido Rodriguez playing behind the lone creative finisher Henry Martin.
Keeper Augustin Marchesin has more clean sheets than any other keeper in the Clausura and while their backline looked erratic against Xolos, Aguilera and Valdez are two brilliant, aggressive central defenders.
Cruz Azul consistently plays a 4-3-3 with Milton Caraglio leading the way with seven goals. La Maquina certainly plays up to their name on defence under management of Pedro Caixinha.
Aguilar and Lichnovsky are rock solid central defenders and 38 year old Jesus Corona in goal is as experienced and skilled as any keeper in the league.
Both of these teams are likely to frustrate each other with their style of play. America should own possession but cracking the backline of Cruz Azul is going to be difficult for them to do relying on depth and not individual brilliance.