After a tough loss in the first leg, the Pumas must find a way to set the tempo and slow down the Tigres’ recent Apertura success.
In each of the last four Apertura tournaments, the Tigres have reached the final, winning the Liga MX crown in Apertura 2015, Apertura 2016 and Apertura 2017. They are a veteran squad with loads of playoff experience.
On the other side, the rejuvenated Pumas have overachieved this season, surprising pundits with a third-place finish. But they suffered at home, only winning twice at the CU.
On Sunday, the Pumas must win by 1-0, 2-1 or by a 2-goal margin to advance to the semifinals, but the Tigres were the second-highest scoring team in the Liga MX.
In the first-leg match in Monterrey, Tigres coach Tuca Ferretti opted to start with 3 central defenders and release his fullbacks from heavy defensive duties. The Pumas – perhaps surprised at the tactical formation as the Tigres had rarely used it this season – could not find a way through the middle of the defense and then were forced to chase the ball. When they did gain possession, they were rarely able to string together many passes.
The Pumas must spend more time with the ball, pass more accurately and contain Tigres star André-Pierre Gignac. Easier said than done.
UNAM: 8-6-3, 29 GF, 19 GA
2-4-2 at home, 16 GF, 14 GA
Tigres: 8-5-4, 32 GF, 18 GA
3-3-2 on road, 11 GF, 9 GA
Tigres 2, Pumas 1
UNAM got on the board early and had some early momentum, but the Tigres remained patient (true to their style) and soon enough dominated possession (87% pass completion rate) and imposed the tempo they prefer. Pumas goalie Alfredo Saldívar stood tall through the first half, defender Alejandro Arribas was a man possessed and skipper Pablo Barrera kept his team fired up. Then Javier Aquino got a fluke goal when his shot deflected off a defender outside the box and curled past Saldívar at the far post in minute 68. Thirteen minutes later, El Volcán erupted when Jesús Dueñas blasted a low shot into the net to earn the victory.
Mozo – Arribas – Quintana – Mendoza
Barrera – Iniestra – Malcorra – M. Rodríguez
Mora – González
This line-up played well for coach David Patiño so I don’t expect changes. However, he might turn to his bench a bit quicker – Matías Alustiza if he needs offense or David Cabrera if he needs defense. The Pumas might try to keep possession (only 28% in the first leg) but they are built to play fast so it might be difficult to change their style. Forwards Felipe Mora and Carlos González must be more involved in the build-up and everybody will have to chase and press because the Tigres will be quite happy to play keepaway.
Ch. Rodríguez – Ayala – Juninho – Meza – Dueñas
Vargas – Carioca – Pizarro – Aquino
It’s hard to define the tactical formation, but this is the line-up Tuca used in the first-leg match and it produced 72% possession. The three central defenders were quite effective after the early error resulted in the Pumas’ lone goal. Chaka Rodríguez and Jesús Dueñas spent an inordinate amount of time on offense, wingers in essence, and Edu Vargas and Javier Aquino played in forward roles for most of the final hour though Aquino early on showed a willingness to track back and slow down the Pumas’ counterattacks.
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Pumas: Forward Carlos González netted a hat trick during the regular-season meeting between these two teams but had no influence on the first-leg match. He must find space and present himself better so his teammates can find him. UNAM needs to score so he must be a contributor.
Tigres: Striker André-Pierre Gignac was insignificant on Thursday and he has built a reputation of being a playoff stud with the Tigres. If he can make his presence felt, I don’t think the Pumas can overcome the Tigres’ advantage.
The easiest way for the Pumas to advance is by winning a low-scoring game, but that is a tall order against the potent Tigres. I see the Pumas putting up a terrific battle but can’t see them reversing their home-field woes.