Fresh from their Concacaf Champions League first-leg victory in the final against local rivals Tigres, Monterrey should seek to continue their resurgent form when they face Necaxa.
The Rayados of Monterrey have looked in fine form the last few weeks after suffering a bit of a wobble during the midseason. Two workmanlike wins have followed the disastrous 5-1 loss at Toluca on Matchday 13.
Monterrey has already clinched a playoff spot and is 4 points back of second-place Tigres, but only 3 points in front of fourth place Cruz Azul. They’ll be looking for all 3 points this Saturday night, especially if the Tigres fail to win on Friday at Puebla, which could give them the chance to sneak into the No. 2 seed. However, reports indicate that coach Diego Alonso will opt for a second-choice line-up again to protect his starters ahead of the CCL return match on Wednesday.
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Necaxa are no pushovers, however. They have been on a decent, stable run of form, posting a 3-2-1 record in their last 6 league games. The lone loss came at league-leading León, only the Rayos’ third road loss this season. Fifth-place Necaxa boasts the league’s third-best road record and they need points to qualify for the postseason, so they could certainly cause Monterrey some trouble if the Rayados’ old insecurities and defensive frailties resurface.
Veracruz 0, Monterrey 1
While not a convincing performance, it was a key win for Monterrey who used a second-choice line-up to rest starters ahead of the Concacaf Champions League Final in midweek. The Rayados found the winner in minute 70 but were never really threatened by the Tiburones. The 3 points earned were massive for their overall confidence.
Necaxa 2, Pachuca 2
Although going a man down when defender Ventura Alvarado was shown a red card in the 56th minute, Necaxa held on to split the points with Pachuca as both clubs make a playoff push down the stretch. The Rayos were leading 2-1 before Alvarado’s rash tackle and they also had three goals disallowed for offside (and replays showed that all three calls were correct). Eduardo Herrera scored both goals for the Rayos.
Monterrey: The starters and first-team players that face Necaxa will have to supply leadership and stability so that the subs and academy players don’t feel overly burdened. Players such as Angel Saldivar and Maxi Meza might be called upon to take charge, while youngsters such as Eric Cantu and Johan Vazquez could be given an opportunity to demonstrate their readiness for more first-team action.
Necaxa: Forward Eduardo Herrera could pose a real threat to Monterrey’s occasionally vulnerable defense. After his brace against Pachuca last week, Herrera will have to be on top form to score a goal against a side that has not conceded a league goal in April.
This will be a hard-fought game, but Monterrey’s CCL win against the Tigres has no doubt heightened their confidence. I think Monterrey will have enough to secure all 3 points at home against the feisty Rayos who would like nothing more than to steal a point to boost their own playoff cause.