Matchday 13 kicks off in Veracruz, home of the newly relegated Tiburones, while playoff hopeful Puebla hosts Morelia.
The Liga MX season is hitting the home stretch with promises of lots of drama. Only two teams have hit the magical 26 points (no team that has earned at least 26 points has missed out on the playoffs since the switch to short seasons in 1996).
Friday’s double-header features only one team with realistic hopes of qualifying for the Liguilla – Puebla – while three of the four have already changed coaches this season (including Puebla).
Atlas at Veracruz
Atlas remains mathematically alive for the postseason after last weekend’s upset win over Santos ended a 6-game losing streak. The Zorros responded to their new coach – Leandro Cufre – with a solid 1-0 win over Santos.
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Cufre took over two weeks ago and has tapped into the much-touted Atlas academy, inserting 17-year-old Jesús Gómez into the starting line-up at left back. With veterans Osvaldo Martínez and Juan Pablo Vigón in midfield providing leadership, the Zorros need striker Jefferson Duque to rediscover the scoring touch he displayed last season. Atlas has just 13 goals through 12 games this season.
Half of Atlas’ 4 wins have come on the road and they have better defensive stats away from home, too.
Veracruz set an undesirable league record two weeks ago, becoming the quickest to “earn” relegation in a season. The Tiburones guaranteed demotion with 6 games remaining and coach Robert Siboldi is trying to salvage what he can from the Clausura, especially since it seems certain that Veracruz ownership will pay the 120 million-peso buy-in fee to stay in Liga MX.
Veracruz is the league’s lone winless team and the toothless Tiburones offense has scored only 4 goals in 12 matches.
Siboldi’s defensive concerns were considerably relieved this past week when goalie Sebastián Jurado signed a 3-year extension to his contract. The 21-year-old keeper has been a revelation this season and he is the primary reason the Tiburones have conceded “only” 19 goals this season.
Morelia at Puebla
Puebla has lost only once since José Luis Sánchez Solá took over as coach after a 4-1 home loss to Necaxa in Matchday 5. The Camoteros have gone 4-2-1 under “Chelis” and the lone setback was at Estadio Azteca against América when the Aguilas scored in minute 88 to steal a 1-0 victory.
The good form has allowed Puebla to climb into 8th place with a decent shot at the Liguilla.
Striker Lucas Cavallini scored twice last week in the Puebla derby, leading the Camoteros to a 4-0 win over Lobos BUAP. The Canadian has 5 goals, good for 6th in the league scoring table.
“Chelis” has his defense playing better, too. The Camoteros have given up just 3 goals in the past 7 games, never giving up more than a single goal. Puebla has posted 4 clean sheets in that time frame, including a scoreless draw at Monterrey.
Morelia has been a shell of the team that was in the playoff hunt last season until then final week of the season. Their highlight was a 3-game unbeaten streak (3 draws) from Matchday 8 through 10 that included a 2-2 tie against América.
The Monarcas defense has been their Achilles’ heel. The Michoacán club has given up 22 goals through 12 matches, only 1 fewer than Veracruz, but the defense failed them last week. Morelia scored twice in the opening 11 minutes to take a 2-0 lead over league-leading León. A late handball allowed the Esmeraldas to tie the game from the penalty spot and MVP candidate Angel Mena knocked home the winner in minute 82.