The penultimate weekend in the Liga MX regular season opens with a doubleheader. Each game features a club chasing a spot in the Liguilla.
The Liga MX weekend kicks off Friday night with two games featuring teams chasing a playoff spot. In the opener, the Tigres visit eighth-place Puebla and the second match sees ninth-place Tijuana visiting Morelia.
Only three teams have clinched postseason berths (León, the Tigres and Monterrey) and nine teams are contesting the remaining five tickets to the Liguilla. Puebla is tied at 23 points with seventh-place América, the defending champs, while Tijuana is a point back with 22.
On the outside looking in are Toluca (21 points), Lobos BUAP (20) and Santos (19). So neither Puebla nor Tijuana can afford to drop points tonight lest a trailing team slips past them. Furthermore, Puebla visits Tijuana next weekend so it is unlikely that both will reach the playoffs.
Tigres at Puebla
The host Camoteros could get a break if Tigres coach Tuca Ferretti decides to rest some starters ahead of next Wednesday’s Concacaf Champions League Final. The Tigres must defeat Monterrey to claim the CCL trophy after their 1-0 loss at home on Tuesday in the first leg.
On the other hand, since Tigres striker André-Pierre Gignac has just come back, Tuca might wish to give him some playing time to rediscover his rhythm and scoring touch (if the Frenchman’s knee does not require rest).
Since the Tigres are already in the playoffs and their No. 2 seed is virtually assured, they might use a second-choice line-up and that would surely benefit the hard-charging Camoteros.
Puebla has gone 3-1-1 in their last five to climb into eighth place, relying on tough defense, tactical discipline and opportunistic scoring. The 3-1 win at Guadalajara was a case in point as the Camoteros overcame an early 1-0 deficit then coasted to victory. Coach José Luis Sánchez Solá has turned the team’s fortunes around since taking over in early February after the club’s 1-2-2 start.
The tandem of Lucas Cavallini and Matías Alustiza has been effective up front and Omar Fernández has been productive on the right flank. At the back, goalie Nicolás Vikonis has been a stud and the central defense pairing of Daniel Arreola and Néstor Vidrio refuses to back down from any challenge.
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The question remains, what kind of challenge will the Camoteros get. Admittedly, even a second-choice Tigres line-up will be difficult and the Tigres prefer a slower-paced, deliberate style on offense that is supported by reliable defensive (14 goals conceded in 15 games). Tigres bench players would also be eager to show Tuca that they deserve more playing time.
This game should go down to the wire and Puebla has managed to find late goals to earn points, and playing their season finale at home could be incentive enough to pull out a win.
Tijuana at Morelia
The Xolos squandered an opportunity to strengthen their playoff position last week by losing at home to the Lobos, their second upset loss in a row after a Matchday 14 loss at UNAM. As a result, Puebla leap-frogged them into eighth place.
Even so, Tijuana controls its own destiny. With a win against the 16th-place Monarcas and a win at home next week against Puebla, the Xolos are in the Liguilla. But first, they must handle business in Morelia and that means scoring a goal.
Tijuana was in fourth place after a Matchday 11 win over Monterrey but then fired blanks in three of the next four games to tumble down to ninth place (they fell to No. 10 in our Power Rankings). Coach Oscar Pareja needs to find a formation that can score goals … and quickly.
Gustavo Bou and Ariel Nahuelpan work hard up front, but have not been getting good service from the club’s playmakers. Miller Bolaños and Erick Castillo need to provide a spark in attack and a slow Morelia defense could be ripe for the picking. The Xolos defense must be mistake-free and goalie Manuel Lajud must be big between the pipes.
The Monarcas are just playing out the string. New coach Javier Torrente is already preparing a wish list for next season, but his players have not thrown in the towel just yet. Last week, Morelia fought the Tigres to a 3-3 tie on the road (though they did squander a 3-1 lead in the final 15 minutes).
In point of fact, Morelia has only lost 1 game in their past 7 outings, but they’ve only managed 1 win in that same time period. Still, the 1-1-5 record includes a tie against América in Estadio Azteca and a tough home loss to league-leading León after building up a 2-0 lead by the 11-minute mark.
Tijuana will want to come out with plenty of energy in hopes of getting an early lead and taking the fight out of the Monarcas as early as possible.