The Liga MX returns from the FIFA break with a Friday doubleheader that features the league leaders and a CCL semifinalist.
After a 10-day FIFA break, León will be looking to extend its lead atop the Liga MX table when it kicks off Matchday 12 against the struggling Monarcas of Morelia. Later, slumping Atlas will be hoping that visiting Santos will be looking ahead to their Wednesday trip to Monterrey to face the Tigres in a Concacaf Champions League semifinal.
León brings an 8-game win streak to Estadio Morelos where the 16th-place Monarcas are 1-2-3 this season. The Esmeraldas are undefeated away from home, posting a 4-1-0 record with a 13-3 goal differential.
Morelia has given up 11 goals in its 6 home games and their only win was in Matchday 3 against lowly Veracruz. That 2-0 win is the Monarcas only victory of Clausura 19.
During the break, León lost a key contributor, striker Walter González, after he required surgery following an ankle injury during a team practice. Though he was not a starter, González was used regularly as a sub. This could mean more playing time for 19-year-old José Juan Macías the team’s second-leading goal scorer, who was often taken off for González late in games.
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Otherwise, the Esmeraldas enter the stretch run in good health and coach Ignacio Ambriz will try to keep his team clicking on all cylinders. One thing Ambriz hopes to see: a goal by winter acquisition Joel Campbell. The Costa Rica international has yet to score his debut goal with León.
Since firing coach Roberto Hernández following an embarrassing 3-0 loss to Querétaro, Morelia has not lost a game (0-3-0), but coach Javier Torrente is still tinkering with his line-up, particularly on the back line.
Captain Gabriel Achilier will have to make sure his defensive mates keep track of Angel Mena, the league’s top scorer and assist man. Midfielder Aldo Rocha and his line mates will also be required to track back and slow down the León attack. A key part of this strategy will be to shut off Luis Montes’ passing lanes since “El Chapito” generates scoring opportunities for Mena, Macías and Vinicio Angulo.
Santos at Atlas
In Guadalajara, the Zorros welcome the Guerreros to Estadio Jalisco eager to end their 6-game losing streak. The slump has seen Atlas fall out of playoff contention and into 15th place.
Santos has underperformed in Liga MX play while advancing to the final four of the Concacaf Champions League in impressive fashion. The Guerreros are in 10th place, 2 points out of a playoff spot, still struggling to find their offensive mojo. If they look to the other side of the field, they’ll see part of it wearing different colors.
Midfield general Osvaldo Martínez left Santos over the winter to join Atlas. In addition, flashy forward Johan Rodríguez was sold to Cruz Azul and the Guerreros attack has been noticeably less explosive than it was last season. Coach Salvador Reyes remains confident in the replacements – forward Javier Correa and midfielder Diego Valdes, but they have yet to catch fire in Liga MX despite contributing mightily to the team’s CCL exploits.
Although Santos has been a below-average road team (1-2-3), Atlas is among the worst home teams in the league, losing 4 of their 5 games at Estadio Jalisco. Trying to correct the Zorros’ fortunes is new coach Leandro Cufré, hired on March 11. He was on the sidelines the last time out for Atlas, a 2-0 loss at Toluca on Matchday 11.
Although Osvaldito has not had a big impact on Atlas yet, Clifford Aboagye and Facundo Barceló are players to keep an eye on against Santos. For the visitors, Julio Furch and Bryan Lozano are good bets to put pressure on Atlas goalie José Hernández.