30
Nov

Liga MX Apertura Liguilla: Quarters Preview - Second Legs

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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:

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12
Nov

Liga MX: Apertura review

imageCan Club America return to early-season form? (Image: Reuters)

The impending World Cup playoff between Mexico and New Zealand obscured the end of the Liga MX campaign with good reason. Club América secured the top seed by what felt like the halfway point in this 17-game season. Half the playoff teams entrenched themselves in the Liguilla places with a handful of rounds to play. Only three postseason spots hung in the balance heading into the final weekend.

A little bit of late drama perked up the proceedings (Chiapas tumbled out altogether after entering the final two weekends in fifth place) and provided a bit of context to a compelling season. Catch up on the proceedings with a look at the key points you might have missed along the way:

1. Club América is the best team in Mexico and it isn’t close… 

América set the tone for the Apertura by dropping two points (a 1-1 draw with resurgent Club León to open the season) in its first seven matches. Miguel Herrera’s side then responded to its first defeat by winning five of its next six matches. Only the wholesale adoption of Herrera and the América starting XI by the FMF prevented the holders from making a serious run at just about every foreseeable record in a short season.

2. … but that fact may not lead to a second consecutive title               

The closing stages of the campaign provided reason for hope: América claimed just one win in its final five outings with its coach and its players distracted by their duties with El Tri. Those missteps came with the top seed essentially sealed, but there are reasons – particularly the setback against quarterfinal opponent Tigres (a difficult opponent given the proximity of the first leg in Monterrey to the World Cup playoff second leg in Wellington) and the suspect record against potential contenders León (the season-opening draw) and Santos Laguna (a midseason defeat) – to suggest the best team during the season may not ultimately defend its trophy.

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8
Nov

Preview: Liga MX final weekend

Chiapas and Querétaro faced uncertain futures in top-flight football at the conclusion of the Clausura. It took a typically circuitous solution from the oligarchy behind Liga MX to provide a solution and rescue both clubs from insolvency and irrelevancy.

The franchise swapping started in earnest when Querétaro finished the campaign at the bottom of the relegation table and slid out of the top flight. Instead of accepting its fate and trying to secure promotion out of Ascenso MX after a year in purgatory, the ownership group in Querétaro constructed a workaround: it purchased the license of Jaguares de Chiapas to retain a place in the first division and promptly moved the club to Querétaro (yet somehow kept many of the old players from the relegated side).

Querétaro’s machinations created an opportunity for San Luis to fill the void in Chiapas. The owners in San Luis opted to close their club – a going, if never wildly successful, concern since 1957 – and shift their operations to Chiapas. The people of Chiapas retained their side, though the new entity currently boasts a roster primarily comprised of loan players (as do many other sides in Mexico, it must be said).

The merry-go-round also included the unseemly dissolution of La Piedad after earning a spot in Liga MX and the virtual promotion of Veracruz, but the Tiburones Rojos – rather appropriately despite a bright start, it must be said – aren’t in the postseason discussions heading into the final round of the Apertura. Chiapas and Querétaro, however, enter the final weekend in position to qualify for the eight-team playoffs.

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Chiapas needs only a point at bottom side Atlante – a decent side in Cancún (2-3-3) given the abject home displays from most sides mired near the bottom – to confirm its Liguilla place. Querétaro likely requires a win at Pachuca to prevent ninth-place Tigres (away to Copa MX runners-up Atlas) and tenth-place Club Tijuana (away to already-qualified Club León) from overtaking them with a victory.

For both sides, there is plenty of work still to do to snatch a postseason berth few expected at the start of this campaign. And given the plight both clubs faced at the end of May, the achievement would prove rather remarkable indeed.