After a flurry of activity before the transfer window slammed shut on Jan. 31, the Liga MX promises three months of excitement before the playoffs kick off in early May.
Defending champion América is aiming for the double this season and is already on the verge of clinching a spot in the Copa MX knockout rounds. Just last week, they added the Nico Brothers – Chile international striker Nico “Killer” Castillo and Nicolás “The Poet” Benedetti – to an offense that scores at a prolific pace.
The powerhouse Monterrey teams – Rayados and Tigres – also bolstered their rosters during the transfer market. The Rayados added Team Mexico’s Miguel Layún and Argentine international Maxi Meza, while the Tigres brought in El Tri defender Carlos Salcedo. The two northern clubs already had far and away the biggest payrolls in the league.
Chivas management made their moves early and got off to a great start with 3 straight wins to open the season. However, their past two league games were less than impressive and big signing Alexis Vega has yet to score his first goal for “El Rebaño Sagrado.” In fact, José Cardozo’s boys have not scored in 214 minutes.
Three coaches have already been fired through five weeks – Pako Ayestarán (Pachuca), David Patiño (Pumas) and Enrique Meza (Puebla) – while three others are on the hot seat. Querétaro’s Rafa Puente, Jr. (the Gallos Blancos are in last place with 0 points), Morelia’s Roberto Hernández (the Monarcas have just 1 win and only 3 goals) and Toluca’s Hernán Cristante (the Diablos have suffered three shut-out losses in a row) could be pink-slipped very soon.
Copa MX takes center stage
Wednesday and Thursday offer nine Copa MX games with five teams poised to clinch a spot in the knockout round with one matchday still remaining.
The best of Tuesday’s slate is the América-Necaxa match. The Rayos visit Estadio Azteca knowing they must win or the Aguilas clinch top spot in Group 4. América defeated Necaxa 2-1 in Aguascalientes on Jan. 15 and only need a tie to secure first place in the group.
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Coach Miguel Herrera will be eager to start playing with his new toys, so we might see “The Poet” get some playing time in front of his new fans. The Aguilas lost their last Cup match – to reigning second-division champions Atlético de San Luis – so they’ll be eager to make amends.
In Group 9, Atlas “visits” the Leones Negros with the winner tying the Pumas atop the standings. Both teams call Estadio Jalisco home, but Atlas will have to wear their away jerseys. The second-division Leones Negros defeated Atlas 2-1 in their first group match when the Zorros were the “home team.”
Elsewhere Tuesday, Puebla hosts Tampico Madero in a Group 2 match that could see second division Juárez clinch first place. If Puebla wins, the Bravos secure a spot in the knockout stages.
In Group 6 play, the Monarcas could erase the stench of their league form by defeating the UAEM Potros and clinching first place.
On Wednesday, Tijuana travels from one end of the country to the other to play Atlante in Cancún. Both teams are chasing Pachuca in Group 1 and an Atlante win would see them leapfrog over the Tuzos.
The best match on Wednesday is Cruz Azul vs. León. The Cementeros just lost at León on Saturday, their second loss to the Esmeraldas this season after León won their first Copa match at Estadio Azteca. In both previous games, former Cruz Azul midfielder Angel Mena scored against his old club. If injury-plagued Cruz Azul loses, it could send them spiraling toward irrelevance with the season only 6 weeks old.
Second division Zacatecas has a chance to clinch top spot in Group 7 with a win over visiting Lobos BUAP. The Mineros upset the Lobos in Puebla in their first Cup co-round on Jan. 8.
Finally, Querétaro hosts Zacatepec with a chance to take command of Group 3 where the Liga MX cellar-dwellars are in a three-way tie with the Cañeros and Diego Maradona’s Dorados of Sinaloa.