Club America player Paul Aguilar (center) celebrates after scoring in a Mexican soccer league Apertura 2018 quarter-final game against Toluca on Dec. 2, 2018, at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. EPA-EFE/Jose Mendez
Mexico City, Dec 5 (efe-epa).- Club America and Pumas UNAM will continue one of the biggest rivalries in Mexican soccer when they square off starting Thursday in the semi-finals of the Apertura 2018 playoffs.
Mexico City club Pumas will be out for revenge against its crosstown rival after suffering a 6-2 shellacking on aggregate in the quarter-finals of the previous championship – the 2017-2018 Liga MX’s Clausura tournament.
Pumas appears to be on much sounder footing this time around due to its solid defense and midfield and a productive attack led by Paraguayan Carlos Gonzalez and Chilean Felipe Mora.
“We want to win both the first and second leg. We want to get to the final and give our people the joy” of winning the title, Argentine midfielder Victor Malcorra said.
Pumas showed its resilience in overcoming a 2-1 loss in the opening leg of the quarter-finals to win 3-1 in the second leg (for a 4-3 victory on aggregate) over Tigres UANL, which had won the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Apertura championships.
But America also is strong in every aspect of the game, having led all teams in scoring during the Apertura regular season (33 goals) and also boasted the second-best defense (17 goals allowed).
The Aguilas finished second in the standings behind only Cruz Azul, although some holes were in apparent in their defense in a narrow 5-4 victory on aggregate over Toluca in the quarter-finals.
No Mexico City team has won either an Apertura or Clausura title since late 2014, when America captured that year’s Apertura.
But with the three capital teams (Cruz Azul, America and Pumas) in the semi-finals for the first time in more than 30 years, Monterrey is the only non-Mexico City team still in contention for the title.
The Rayados will host top-seeded Cruz Azul on Wednesday night at BBVA Bancomer Stadium, while Pumas will host America at Estadio Olimpico Universitario on Thursday night.
The second leg of the Monterrey-Cruz Azul semi-final will be played Saturday night at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, while the final leg of the Pumas-America duel will be played Sunday night at that same venue.