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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23
Nov

Liga MX Liguilla quarterfinals, first leg preview

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The chase to dethrone Club América kicks off in earnest this weekend. Las Aguilas sit atop Liga MX after winning the Liguilla during the Clausura, but seven challengers to the throne emerged during the Apertura in a bid to end their reign over the next few weeks.

The potential usurpers will take heart from the FMF’s decision to adopt America as its de facto national team during the past month or so. The prospect of knocking off the holders increased when coach Miguel Herrera and 10 of his players shifted their focus to El Tri’s World Cup bid.

It is still a mighty assignment to knock them from their perch, though. The first step along the difficult path for the champions and their potential conquerors: navigating through tricky first leg ties this weekend.

(5) Toluca – (4) Cruz Azul (Saturday, 6:00p.m. ET)

Do the Red Devils have one last attacking explosion left in the arsenal? José Cardozo’s side scored three or more goals on five separate occasions during the Apertura. A sixth would place them in good stead ahead of a difficult return trip to Estadio Azul. Anything less could place their hopes of a semifinal place in some doubt given the seasoned opposition.

(6) Morelia – (3) Club León (Saturday, 8:00p.m. ET)

Can Morelia choke off the supply lines to Mauro Boselli? The former Wigan man functions as the only reliable threat in a capable, but somewhat impotent, León side. Morelia isn’t a particular resolute side, but it must use its defensive resources to limit Boselli’s involvement and pile the pressure on the likes of Luis Montes and Carlos Peña to contribute more than approach play from midfield.

imageStop Boselli, and you can stop Leon

(8) Tigres – (1) Club América (Sunday, 6:00p.m. ET)

Are the champions up for the fight? Miguel Herrera and a significant contingent spent much of the past month focused on carrying Mexico to the World Cup. They returned from a trip halfway around the world in midweek before commencing the disjointed preparations for this tricky test against talented, yet underachieving, Tigres. The first leg represents a genuine opportunity for Tigres to snatch a result as Las Aguilas settle back into the domestic scene. The home side must take it in order to fuel its upset bid.

(7) Querétaro – (2) Santos Laguna (Sunday, 8:00p.m. ET)

How will Pedro Caixinha manage Oribe Peralta? Peralta lifted Mexico to the World Cup with his goals over the past week or so. The burden placed upon him internationally and the lingering concerns about his balky knee raise questions about how the clever Santos boss will use him in this first leg. Caixinha can afford to leave Peralta in reserve and play Javier Orozco (a natural target man) in his place at the outset. The one caveat: the rest of the side must lift its level accordingly to ensure that potential selection decision does not place the hopes of a semifinal berth in peril.

imageWill Peralta’s hot form with El Tri translate over to the Liga MX playoffs? (Images: MexSport)

17
May

América, Cruz Azul in control as Liguilla semifinal second legs beckon

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By: Kyle McCarthy

Mexico will once again turn its attention toward the capital as the Liguilla semifinals conclude over the weekend.

If everything unfolds according to plan, then the attention will remain there through the conclusion of the final next weekend. Club América (2-2 at Monterrey on Wednesday) and Cruz Azul (3-0 at Santos Laguna on Thursday) submitted assured displays away from home to place themselves into position to progress with similar performances in the second leg.

América faces the trickier of the two challenges with Monterrey still in the tie after the stalemate at Estadio Tecnológico. It isn’t beyond Victor Manuel Vucetich’s side to engineer the required victory (or a draw of 3-3 or greater, though that result hardly seems likely) in this decisive affair, nor is it out of the realm of possibility for América to buckle under the weight of the heavy expectations.

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4
May

Liga MX Clausura 2013, Jornada 17: Five Things to Watch

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By Kyle McCarthy

1. Forget about final day drama: it’s all about final weekend drama in Liga MX: All of the key matches are spread out over two days to maximize viewing pleasure. If the events break in a certain way (more on that potential sequence of events in a moment), the final game of the Clausura (Pumas’ visit to Atlante on Sunday night) could determine the composition of the Liguilla field. Moral of the story: clear off the calendar on Saturday and Sunday to keep careful track of the events as they unfold.

2. Two teams, one regular-season title at stake at the Azteca: Club América hosts Tigres in a virtual playoff for top spot in the Liguilla on Saturday night. The two combatants – plus surprise package Atlas – enter the weekend tied on 32 points. If either side emerges victorious from this tense affair, then it will secure the first seed due to its vastly superior goal difference (America: +17, Tigres: +14, Atlas: +8). If the match ends in a draw, then Atlas can vault both of them with a home victory over Club León.

One other point to monitor in this match: Ecuadorian striker Christian Benítez (12 goals) could win his third consecutive scoring title (a first since Mexico switched to the split-season format in 1996) if he maintains his two-goal edge over Morelia’s Héctor Mancilla (10 goals) through the weekend.

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29
Apr

Five points: Liga MX, Jornada 16

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By Kyle McCarthy

1. Six teams avoid final day drama: Cruz Azul and Morelia increased the number of confirmed Liguilla participants to six after emerging with victories this weekend. They join co-leaders Club América, Atlas and Tigres and current fourth-place side Santos Laguna with assured places in the postseason. The only drama left for these outfits: confirming their final place in the pecking order.

One match to monitor closely as these sides jostle for position: co-leaders América and Tigres meet on Saturday at Estadio Azteca. América will secure top spot with a victory even if Atlas – the third and final side situated on 32 points heading into the weekend – defeats Club León at home based on its superior goal difference.

2. And three sides vie for the last two slots: Pumas UNAM (26 points), Querétaro (24 points) and Monterrey (23 points) enter the last weekend as the candidates to fill the final two Liguilla places (barring some heavy Cruz Azul defeat). Monterrey will know exactly what outcome it requires when it hosts Cruz Azul on Saturday night with Querétaro poised to play earlier in the day (more on that game in a moment). Pumas plays at Atlante on Sunday night in the final game of the Clausura with its mobility – upwards or downwards – clearly outlined.

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22
Apr

Five points from Liga MX: Atlas’ magic; Tijuana on the brink

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1. Atlas continues its magical run with derby win over Chivas: Rodrigo Millar decided the latest edition of the Clásico Tapatio in favor of the title chasers when he turned home Amaury Ponce’s cross on the half-hour. The latest step forward for the second side in Guadalajara came with an additional benefit: the triumph essentially placed Benjamin Galindo’s side in a position where it must win both of its remaining games to maintain its Liguilla hopes.

Chivas will likely have to accomplish that task without Erick Torres. The lively striker suffered a graphic injury to his left elbow after a clumsy tackle by Luis Robles in the 79th minute. Immediate calls for the medical staff – plus the quick attention paid by several Atlas players, including goalkeeper Miguel Pinto – underscored the severity of the situation.
 
2. Cruz Azul puts one foot in the Liguilla by eliminating Toluca: One win from their final two matches – admittedly difficult affairs against Santos Laguna and Monterrey, mind you – should prove enough for La Máquina to claim a place in the top eight after a 2-0 victory at La Bombonera on Sunday.

Christian Giménez (with the aid of neat buildup work from Gerardo Torrado and Teofilo Gutierrez) and Luis Perea (from a Pablo Barrera corner kick) ended the Red Devils’ remote playoff hopes and prolonged Cruz Azul’s recent run of form. No team will relish drawing this group in the playoffs.

3. Tijuana on the brink after Morelia defeat: Héctor Mancilla showed the difference an extra touch of class can provide when he scored twice – including a truly stunning bit of skill to equalize – to hand Morelia a 2-1 victory at Estadio Caliente. Consider the Apertura defense just about concluded for Tijuana at this point with a Copa Libertadores round of 16 tie against Palmeiras on tap starting next week and a three-point gap to close with two games left to play.

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