León has one eye on the record books and the other eye on Necaxa, one of the league’s best road teams.
The Esmeraldas of León are one victory from tying the all-time league record for most consecutive wins and they’ll put their 9-game winning streak on the line when the Rayos of Necaxa pay a visit Saturday night.
Cruz Azul won 10 straight games 47 years ago, during the 1971-72 season.
León has ridden its win streak to the top of the table – with a 3-point lead over No. 2 Tigres – and the club’s schedule the rest of the season is favorable. But Necaxa has put together a surprising Clausura this far, climbing into 5th place with one of the league’s best road records.
The Rayos have won 4 of their 6 road games and they’ve done it with offense. On the other side of the pitch, León is the league’s best defense (only 8 goals allowed in 12 games) and is very tough at home (4-1-1 record, 12 goals scored, 3 goals allowed).
This game also features the top two goal-scorers in Liga MX. León midfielder Angel Mena has 11 goals and Necaxa winger Brian Fernández has 10 goals. The Rayos have proven to be vulnerable on defense, however, and they can ill-afford mistakes against a team as opportunistic as León.
This has all the makings of an exciting, high-scoring game.
Morelia 2, León 3
The Monarcas leapt out in front, scoring twice in the game’s opening 11 minutes. The well-oiled León offense finally cranked things up, scoring 3 second-half goals (including 2 by Mena) to push the win streak to 9. Midfield general Luis Montes directed León’s attack with determination and the team maintained its composure, getting the winner in minute 82.
Necaxa 2, Veracruz 0
The Rayos did just enough to get past the last-place Tiburones, earning only their second home victory of the season with a workmanlike performance. Defensive midfielder Fernando González opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark and Fernández scored in stoppage time. The win keeps alive Necaxa’s playoff hopes.
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Navarro – Mosquera – Herrera – Hernández
Mena – Montes – Rodríguez – Meneses
Campbell – Macías
Right back William Tesillo is suspended for this match but Edwin Hernández is a capable fill-in. Joel Campbell is still looking for his first goal in a León uniform; his speed and quickness could give the Costa Rican an advantage against the Necaxa back line.
Meza – Peña – Alvarado – Calderón
Fernández – González – Gallegos – Sepúlveda
Herrera – Contreras
The emergence of Alexis Peña in defense has helped solidify an otherwise leaky defense. The return to health of Eduardo Herrera has also strengthened the Rayos attack. There is not much on the bench for coach Guillermo Vázquez to turn to if the game gets out of hand.
León: Midfielder Luis Montes is the one who makes the Esmeraldas offense run even as Mena gets the highlights (and deservedly so) for his goals and assists. But it all starts with Montes and he’ll be challenged by Felipe Gallegos and Fernando González.
Necaxa: Brian Fernández will be eager to test “El Aris” Hernández who has yet to return to the form he enjoyed at Chivas before last season’s injury. If the potent Fernández can turn his marker on the dribble, he’ll sweep inside for a shot or a pass. He can be dangerous.
“La Fiera” has struggled to win its past two games, but its poise and execution in attack has made the difference. Last week, the Necaxa defense earned just its second shut-out of the season, but it came against punchless Veracruz. I don’t see them standing up to the smooth-operating León offense.