The history of resurgence that America has written so far in the Closing tournament could fall apart in the semifinals when they have to face a Pachuca that has become their black beast in the playoffs. The Eagles, led by interim coach Fernando Ortiz, went from being in last place to qualifying directly for the league. They come from eliminating Puebla, reaching their first semifinals since Apertura 2019.

“The merit belongs to the boys, I give everything, I prepare them so that they are the protagonists,” said Ortiz, who relieved his Argentine compatriot Santiago Solari.

America, the only one of the four most established teams that is still alive, is looking for a 14th star that would take them two away from Chivas, the second most successful team in the country. But before that he must overcome a difficult key. Since short tournaments were introduced in Mexico in 1996, the Eagles have met the Tuzos in the knockout phase on five previous occasions. Only once, in the Clausura 2012, the Azulcremas got ahead. Within that streak are the quarterfinals of last year’s Clausura, when América, led by Solari, landed as the general leader and lost to Pachuca. Now the roles are reversed and the Tuzos arrive as leaders and as favorites.

“The players have the will and desire to continue doing things well,” said Uruguayan coach Guillermo Almada. “We’re up against a high-ranking rival and if we give them facilities he’s going to be very expensive.”

The first leg is Thursday night at the Azteca stadium, the home of America. The return will be on Sunday at the Hidalgo del Pachuca stadium.

In the other key, which starts on Wednesday, the champion Atlas will seek to take another step towards his quest for the two-time championship when he visits Tigres.

The Foxes, who last tournament broke a 70-year drought without being crowned, seek to join León and Pumas as the only teams to repeat as monarchs in the history of short tournaments.

“The group is strong, we are eager, we have shown that we do not have championship status, we have shown that we are not satisfied, we have shown that we want to go for more,” said Argentine coach Diego Cocca. “The facts speak for themselves, it seems to me that it is you (the press) who have to recognize what Atlas does on and off the field.”

Tigres with one of the best squads in Mexico was second in the regular tournament, but closed with three losses in their last four games, including the quarterfinals, where they eliminated Cruz Azul for their best position in the table. The first leg will be on Wednesday at the Jalisco stadium in the western city of Guadalajara, and the return leg will be on Saturday night at the Universitario de Monterrey stadium.

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