Nacho Ambriz has Leon nipping at the heels of the Monterrey powerhouses at the top of the table, while Francisco Palencia has his Lobos believing they can make the playoffs.
By now we know that Leon is one of the most dangerous teams in the Clausura, boasting the highest-scoring offense (22 goals) and the stingiest defense (6 goals allowed). But Lobos BUAP is not the pushover that many pundits predicted and they can insure their position in the top division for another year with a win this weekend.
Since Matchday 4, León has been unbeatable, forging a 6-game winning streak with dominating performances. They are 3rd in the league, just 2 points out of 1st and “La Fiera” does not seem ready to take their foot off the pedal. Leon restated their claim as one of the league’s best teams by roughing up Santos last week, in an impressive 3-0 home win. League-leading scorer Angel Mena scored twice and William Tesillo added another late.
Leon is unbeaten on the road (3-1-0), outscoring their hosts by a 12-3 margin. “Los Panzas Verdes” will certainly march into Puebla with plenty of confidence since they are facing an average defense. The Lobos have allowed 16 goals through 9 matches, while only scoring 12.
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Coach Ignacio Ambriz has proven to be a positive influence since taking over midway through last season and he has his club playing with flair, yet still embracing the fundamentals of team defense. The “Esmeraldas” have already played the toughest part of their schedule (the only team currently in a playoff position that Leon will face from here on out is Pachuca, sitting at #8 in the table as of Saturday). If Leon can avoid injury, they should surely be in contention for the top playoff seed come May.
The Lobos BUAP have a modest payroll, but they are comfortable within the system installed by coach Palencia. The Puebla-based team has found success by playing within themselves. Goalie Jose Antonio Rodriguez has been very reliable and at time spectacular. Up front, the Lobos look to Leo Ramos to score and his 5 goals places him 6th on the league scoring list. Ramos was 6th best in the league last season too, registering 8 goals in 9 games.
The Lobos will be playing their second straight game at home. Last Sunday, they shocked the Pumas 2-1 despite playing with 10 men for the entire second half. The Pumas goal came in stoppage time after the Lobos had added a second in minute 61.
Paco Palencia took over as manager of the Lobos last summer and he has transformed the Lobos into a more dynamic team.
Leon has scored at least 3 goals in each of their last four matches (vs America, Toluca, Pumas and Santos). So against one of the league’s leakier defenses – even on the road – I see another blowout for Leon.