Puebla is mathematically alive in the Liga MX playoff race, but asking for a road win at Tigres might be asking too much.
Despite being a pre-season favorite for the title, the Tigres have yet to perform to their expectations this season. Unless something clicks within this talented roster, this could be the first time since December 2014 that someone besides the Tigres lifts a Liga MX Apertura trophy. Coach Ricardo has a veteran roster, but he knows the Tigres can’t just expect to flip the switch when the Liguilla rolls around. Besides, one stumble in the next two games could see Ferretti’s boys miss out on the postseason party.
Puebla must beat the Tigres on the road and then win at home against Tijuana to have a chance to make the playoffs. But the Camoteros also needs lots of help with three teams between them a the 8th seed. The visitors must put all that aside, play solid defense and hope the Tigres continue sleepwalking through the regular season.
Puebla: 2-2 tie vs Chivas
Guadalajara had Puebla on the ropes early, scoring twice in the first 11 minutes, but the Camoteros fought back to equalize by the hour mark. Shortly thereafter, Chivas forward Alan Pulido was tossed from the match and Puebla aggressively chased the winner but could not produce another goal. Those extra 2 points a victory would have provided will be sorely missed by season’s end.
Tigres: 2-0 win at Morelia
The Tigres played nearly 70 minutes with a man advantage but it took a penalty in minute 58 before they could get on the scoreboard. They played patiently while dominating possession (74%) and let fly 21 shots, 9 of which were on target (Sebastián Sosa played tough in goal for the Monarcas). Coach Ferretti is still tinkering with his offense which has been quite erratic in front of goal and 20-year-old Rafael Durán got a start again.
More from Liga MX
- Guillermo Ochoa is out 4-6 weeks
- Why the United States Is Set to Overtake Mexico on the World Stage
- COVID-19 still affecting the Liga MX
- Chivas need to trust the process
- What’s wrong with Chivas?
Loroña – Zamora – Arreola – Cruz
Chumacero – Robles
Fernández – Espericueta – Tabo
It wouldn’t surprise me if coach Enrique Meza went conservative and opened with a 5-4-1 by inserting Ignacio Pallas as a third central defender and holding out midfielder Jonathan Espericueta (a Tigres product). Either way, midfielders Christian Tabó and Omar Fernández will be expected to carry out defensive duties before joining Lucas Cavallini in attack.
Chaka Rodríguez – Ayala – Juninho – Dueñas
Rafael Carioca – Pizarro
Durán – Vargas – Aquino
Coach Ferretti might be quick to sub up front if this line-up does not respond. With veterans Enner Valencia, Ismael Sosa, Julián Quiñones and Lucas Zelarayán waiting to prove they belong in the playoff rotation, the Tigres starters must produce against a sub-par Puebla defense or worry about being replaced.
Puebla: Goalie Nicolás Vikonis was a stud in the early part of the season, standing on his head to keep Puebla in matches. The Tigres tend to be patient so he might not face shots in volume, but he can expect to see quality shots on goal. If he can keep a clean sheet to halftime, Puebla has a chance to pull one out late.
Tigres: Winger Javier Aquino has been getting into good playing shape after his recent return from a mid-season injury, but he has not been in great form. His escapability remains a genuine asset but his passing and timing are not quite there yet. The Tigres will need him if they hope to make a deep playoff run.
We keep saying the Tigres are on the verge of lifting their game, but it is not showing on the pitch. A rash of preseason injuries were matched by mid-season injuries that have hurt the chemistry of this team, but the time is now. Puebla knows it must win, but will want to focus on defense first and be ready for counterattacks when opportunities arise. If Puebla gets on the board first, this could be a tense contest.