The best game of Matchday 12 is bound to be this battle royale at Estadio Azteca as Liga MX returns from the FIFA break.
América vs Tigres has become one of the most anticipated matches on the Liga MX schedule over the past 10 years. It also pits two of the most lucrative teams in the league and the No. 2 (América) and No. 3 (Tigres) highest payrolls.
Twice in the past five years they have clashed in the Finals, each team winning a title. (On the women’s side, América defeated the Lady Tigres in last season’s Liga MX Femenil Final). The Tigres also dispatched the Aguilas in the Apertura 2017 semifinals, going on to win the title against Monterrey.
Last season, América outscored the Tigres in Monterrey, winning 3-2. At Estadio Azteca on Saturday, the Tigres would like nothing better than to return the favor. They’ll have to do it without star striker André-Pierre Gignac who has been ruled out due to a lingering knee injury. He is likely to miss next week’s Concacaf Champions League semifinal against Santos as well.
The Tigres are 7 points ahead of the 4th place Aguilas and their offense has remained potent without Gignac the past several games. The return of winger Javier Aquino has helped, and Lucas Zelarayán is finally back from injury row too.
América headed into the FIFA break on a high after dominating two straight Super Clásicos, beating the Chivas 2-0 in each (first a Copa MX quarterfinal, then a Liga MX match). Then 13 of their players went out on international duty, five of them to South American teams and two with El Tri (midfielder Edson Álvarez and defender Jorge Sánchez). It remains to be seen how much momentum the team has lost following the 10-day layoff.
Guadalajara 0, América 2
Nico Castillo scored 3 minutes in and the game was put to sleep rather quickly as América’s dynamic duo – Guido Rodríguez and Edson Alvarado – basically choked off all midfield approaches the Chivas tried. Renato Ibarra was runing rampant all game long, Andrés Ibarguen scored shortly after halftime and Guadalajara went down meekly thereafter.
Tigres 4, Querétaro 1
In the absence of the injured Gignac, the trident of Julián Quiñones, Luis Quiñones and Enner Valencia has proven to be productive and they were at it again. Julián scored a brace and Valencia added the fourth in minute 70. Edu Vargas also flashed the form that made him a star with two-time Copa América champion Chile.
Aguilar – Aguilera – Valdez – Sanchez
Rodríguez – Alvarado
Ibarra – Benedetti – Ibarguen
I’m speculating that Nicolás Benedetti gets the start ahead of Mateus Uribe who recently returned from ankle surgery. Uribe was a key cog in last season’s title-winning side, but the Aguilas need to be sharper on offense and “El Poeta” could be the playmaker coach Miguel Herrera needs to return to the Finals.
More from Viva Liga MX
- Guillermo Ochoa is out 4-6 weeks
- The Clásico Regiomontano is Heating Up
- Pumas: In Search of Regaining a Top Spot
- Why the United States Is Set to Overtake Mexico on the World Stage
- Erick Gutierrez is out once again
Rodríguez – Ayala – Salcedo – Meza – Dueñas
Vargas – Carioca – Aquino
Quiñones – Valencia
Coach Tuca Ferretti has used the 4-4-2 more frequently this season, but against América he might want to surround Nico Castillo with bodies and try to keep everyone else wide. He could also opt to start with a double-pivot, pairing Rafa Carioca and Guido Pizarro deep in midfield.
América: Goalie Agustín Marchesín reports back after spending FIFA break with Leo Messi and Argentina (well, Messi was there for part of the break) though he did not get into either game for “La Albiceleste.” He has given up 13 goals already this season (he allowed 17 all of last season), so he will have to be on his toes against the active Tigres forwards.
Tigres: Keeper Nahuel Guzmán was on Argentina’s 2018 World Cup team but has not been invited back to camp since, so he will want to show his counterpart that he is the top Argentine goalkeeper in Liga MX. He’ll have plenty of opportunity to do so because América is going to take its share of shots.
Defending champion América has been unconvincing this Clausura, already losing twice as many games as last season, including the playoffs. Injuries have played a part and perhaps the inevitable letdown. This is the first of a killer stretch that includes Tijuana and Cruz Azul, so América knows it must find momentum … and quickly. The Tigres are good at not letting you do what you want to do, so this game will be a battle of wills, and perhaps some late-game tactical adjustment.