Meetings between Mexico and the United States are always passionate affairs, and 12 August's clash between the two CONCACAF giants is sure to be no exception. As a result, there are regional bragging rights at stake in addition to three points which could prove vital to both teams' hopes of reaching the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
Neighbours and fierce footballing rivals, El Tricolor and the Stars and Stripes both go into the game on the back of a successful summer. Mexico, for their part, put a turbulent period behind them when winning the recent CONCACAF Gold Cup, capping a morale-boosting tournament with an emphatic 5-0 win over Wednesday's opponents. US coach Bob Bradley, however, rested a host of his first-choice players for that competition, most of who had been involved in the run to the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009.
Stats tinged green
The overall record of matches between the two sides on Mexican soil is weighted overwhelmingly in the home side's favour, with El Tri winning 22 and drawing one of 23 meetings to date. This includes an impressive run of ten wins and a solitary draw in FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Across the border in the United States, on the other hand, and the picture is quite different. Indeed, the Stars and Stripes had gone an astonishing ten years without defeat at home against their neighbours until that recent Gold Cup final reverse by Javier Aguirre's men.
Bradley's charges will therefore see the upcoming encounter in Mexico City as the perfect opportunity to avenge that emphatic loss and record a first success on their rivals' turf. Moreover, given the USA are second with ten points from five matches and El Tri are down in fourth on just six points, an American victory would push them yet closer to one of the three available automatic qualifying berths for South Africa 2010 and make life that much harder for their southern neighbours.
The Mexican camp are refusing to even contemplate defeat, however, buoyed by the favourites' tag handed them thanks to their home record and the Gold Cup success. "They're a rival to be respected, but we know how they play. Furthermore we're physically fitter and better players," said El Tricolor keeper Guillermo Ochoa. "Now we need to prove that on the pitch and do our jobs right."
"A really nice group has come together. There have been guidelines put down and we've got things we were lacking before," said Arsenal forward Carlos Vela of the change in atmosphere within the Mexico squad. "We're all on the same wavelength and we know what we want to achieve. It's easier to work that way and the atmosphere's much better."
Backing the United States to pull off a historic win, meanwhile, is former US defender and captain Alexi Lalas. "Mexico are a good team but they're not the same side I played against during my career. Back then they had several of their best-ever players," said the current ESPN pundit. "I think that if the United States can avoid conceding in the first 20 minutes they've got a great chance. But if Mexico score early it'll be very tough."
Whatever happens, an enthralling encounter is sure to ensue on Wednesday 12 August, a game which, along with all the rest of the matchday's FIFA World Cup qualifying action, you can follow on FIFA.com's EMIRATES MatchCast. See you then!