Everything you need to know about Monterrey vs. Tigres in Clasico Regio
Monterrey and Tigres are set to meet as the No. 2 and No. 7 seeds respectively in the 2017 Clausura playoffs. Get the scoop on the history of the rivalry and more below!
The Clasico Regio ... is the most organic, intense and passionate rivalry in Mexican football, bringing together arguably the two best squads that Liga MX has to offer. It pits the traditionally more working-class Tigres (whose fans say their team is from San Nicolas de la Garza, not Monterrey) and Los Rayados' more white-collar support against each other.
There is a university link as well, with Tigres playing in the colors of the public UANL and Monterrey the private Tecnologico de Monterrey. Those class boundaries may have faded, with both teams among the richest in the league, but the battle for the city of Monterrey has all of the ingredients to match some of the best derbies around the world.
This rivalry is comparable to ... it is a difficult one! Think unbridled passion, a quite equally split regional powerhouse and two clubs that -- rightly or wrongly -- are not considered part of Mexico's "big four" and the temptation is to say the Clasico Regio is like Newcastle versus Sunderland in England, Real Betis versus Sevilla in Spain or even Newell's Old Boys against Rosario Central in Argentina.
All have regionally based fans that don't need the national spotlight to fuel the passion. But those comparisons almost don't do the Clasico Regio enough justice, because they don't boast two league-leading teams like Monterrey does. In those terms, there are elements of the modern Manchester United against Manchester City, or even AC Milan versus Inter.
Another key feature is just how even the teams are. Reigning Liga MX champions Tigres have won the title five times, compared to Los Rayados' four. The record in official matches between the two reads 38 wins for Tigres, 37 for Monterrey, with 33 draws.
History / biggest moments
The first clasico between these two teams was played in the second division, with Monterrey running out 2-0 winner in March 1960. It wasn't until July 1974 that the squads met again and the relatively recent rivalry began to truly grow.
By 1985, the passion had reached such a level that the 28th Clasico Regio only lasted seven minutes after a battle broke out on the field between the players and the game was called off.
Fast forward to 2008 and then-Monterrey coach Ricardo La Volpe inflamed passions ahead of the 87th edition of the clash, declaring: "I'd prefer go shopping in Laredo [Texas] than watch Tigres play." The statement backfired when Manuel Lapuente's Tigres won 4-1 at Monterrey's Estadio Tecnologico.
Before La Volpe, Miguel Herrera had attempted something similar ahead of the 75th clasico. "El Piojo" said: "The only thing I know is that we're not going to see if we can win, we will win." Monterrey went on to lose 6-2 at Estadio Universitario.
More recently, Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti was sent off for taking out his wallet and showing it to the referee after a series of what he considered poor decisions in the return leg of the 2016 Clausura semifinal.
For Los Rayados, Aldo De Nigris -- who made his debut for Tigres -- was the hero of the 95th clasico in 2012 when he struck both goals in the 2-0 win. It was the celebration that caught the eye, however, with De Nigris taking his shirt off, laying down and posing in front of Tigres fans.
The big players
Mario de Souza Mota: Nobody has scored more goals (11) in Clasicos Regios than "Bahia" did for Monterrey, and two of them were especially memorable. He scored an impressive solo dribble from the halfway line in the 36th clasico and netted an overhead kick in the 38th edition.
Tomas Boy: "El Jefe" remains a Tigres legend, even if he did cause controversy when he managed Monterrey in the late 1990s by entering the field to shout abuse at the referee as his team fell to defeat. But Boy netted six goals in 26 matches against Monterrey, including his last-ever goal.
Jesus "Cabrito" Arellano: The player with most appearance in this clasico, all of them for Los Rayados. A legend of the club, Arellano steers clear of contact with the press these days, although he retains a lofty position in the history of the rivalry.
Top three games
Clasico 51: One to forget for Tigres fans. The side from UANL had to win in order to have any chance of staying in the first division. Things started well when Omar Arellano put Tigres ahead on March 24, 1996, but it all went downhill when Sergio Verdirame equalized in the 24th minute and Luis Miguel Salvador put Monterrey ahead two minutes later.
It was the ultimate disappointment for Tigres. Not only had they been relegated, but it was Los Rayados who sealed their fate at Estadio Universitario. The Tigres boss that day was a young Victor Manuel Vucetich, who would go on to become one of Monterrey's most successful coaches.
Clasico 108: Tigres were behind 3-1 on aggregate from the quarterfinal first leg and went into the second match with little hope of advancing. But goals within the first 30 minutes from Jesus Duenas and Rafael Sobis changed the outlook of the tie.
With Tigres chasing the vital third, the referee sent off their captain, Juninho, in the 68th minute and awarded Monterrey two penalties, both of which were saved by Nahuel Guzman. In the end, it was Los Rayados fans that celebrated, but the occasion -- in a sparkling Estadio BBVA Bancomer -- showed just what this clasico means.
Clasico 75: One for Tigres fans. The 6-2 victory in 2004 is the biggest thrashing in the history of the derby.
What the players say
"L- ----- -- -- ----- Rayados!" -- Tigres' midfielder Guido Pizarro had some choice words for Monterrey when he was sent off in the clasico in March 2016, a 1-0 victory for his opponents. He proceeded to post photos of himself wearing a T-shirt with the same phrase before the following clasico.
"Now that they have gone down to the second division, we hope that their fans will join us, so they can stay in the first division. Remember that, in the end, all Tigres have stripes." -- Monterrey president Jorge Lankenau in 1996 when Tigres were relegated.
"Tigres don't need any support from Rayados. If I was in their place, I'd want Monterrey to go down to the second division." -- Legendary Tigres manager Carlos Miloc in 2009 when asked what he thought about Monterrey fans who wanted Tigres to stay up so they could continue to enjoy the clasico.
What the fans say
"It's the most important game of the season. When you get to see the calendar of the whole season for the first time, the first match that you're going to look for is when Tigres are going to play against Rayados. Then, after you have that date, you're just going to plan to figure out how you're going to manage to see it ... even if you're going to have a wedding or a birthday party." -- Tigres fan Aaron Flores.
"I think this rivalry really strengthens [ties between opposing fans] ... It's the essence of sportsmanship. It's proving day in, day out who's the better team, who's on top. The rest of the country doesn't even matter, what matters is just how Tigres are doing vs. how Rayados are doing." -- Monterrey fan Federico Iglesias.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.