Liga MX provides higher-seeded teams with a considerable advantage at the quarterfinal stage of the Liguilla. The usual away goals tiebreaker applies first, but the second criterion to separate the sides involves sending the higher seeded side through if both teams remain deadlocked.
The structure places considerable emphasis on strong away performances. Three of the top four seeds — not you, Cruz Azul — delivered by securing two or more goals in those critical first leg affairs. Their exploits leave them in a promising position to book a place in the semifinals. The job isn’t done yet, though.
As an added bonus of the neutrals, the operating principles ensure the open fare from those first legs (18 goals in four matches) should continue. The lower-seeded sides must recover those goals lost at home and snatch an extra one or two to advance to the last four. Expect the goals to flow once more as these eight sides tussle for the right to continue their campaigns for another fortnight:
Cruz Azul v Toluca (live, Saturday, 6 p.m. ET – Toluca leads 3-0 on aggregate)
Is there any way back for Cruz Azul?: Toluca produced the outburst La Maquina feared at La Bombonera a week ago. The defeated Clausura finalists simply couldn’t find a way to blunt the home side’s advances or seize the initiative at any stage. The dynamic must change at the outset in order to inject some doubt into this tie. One positive for Cruz Azul heading into the return leg: Mariano Pavone (fractured third metacarpal on his left hand) is expected to feature.
Club León v Morelia (live, Saturday, 9 p.m. ET – series tied 3-3 on aggregate)
Will León suffer from its inability to polish off the tie in the first leg?: León held leads of 2-0 (inside the first 21 minutes) and 3-1 (after 38 minutes) at Estadio Morelos. Both of those leads flitted away to leave this series finely poised heading into the return leg. León should find a way through with its big guns firing (Mauro Boselli and Luis Montes both struck in the initial encounter) and with the advantage of playing at home, but it will require work than expected after that rampant first half display a week ago.
Club América v Tigres (live, Sunday, 6 p.m. ET – series tied 2-2 on aggregate)
Set pieces, set pieces, set pieces: Three of the four goals in the first leg results from dead ball situations or the remnants of those sequences of play. Both teams must increase their concentration levels in those highly leveraged situations to prevent similar breakdowns in the second leg. The maxim applies to the home side with additional weight: if this second leg is determined by the run of play, then América — particularly with Miguel Layun (ankle sprain) likely to feature — will emerge with the upper hand.
Santos Laguna v Querétaro (live, Sunday, 9 p.m. ET – Santos Laguna leads 3-2 on aggregate)
Is there a miracle ahead of Gallos Blancos?: The first leg defeat at Estadio Corregidora leaves the rank outsiders with ample work to do in Torreon. Querétaro faces the rather unenviable task of pushing numbers forward and trying to reduce Santos’ effectiveness on the counter. Carlos Darwin Quintero’s effect on the first leg suggests that assignment might just prove a bit beyond the scope of Ignacio Ambriz’s outfit.