Host América still has work to do to make the playoffs, while Santos must win out and get help.
América woke up on Saturday morning in ninth place, knowing it must win to carry on and defend the title. Both Puebla and Tijuana climbed past the Aguilas on Friday night, although since they play each other next week, América knows it only has to get past one of those two clubs to sneak into the playoffs.
On the other hand, if the Aguilas are victorious against Santos and neither the Lobos or Toluca win, they will clinch a playoff spot. Still, América has not won since hoisting the Copa MX trophy on April 10, complicating their title defense.
Santos visits Estadio Azteca Saturday night with slim, mathematical hopes of qualifying for the Liguilla. Sitting in 12th place, the Guerreros must defeat América then beat UNAM next week and also pray that several results go their way. Furthermore, Santos must score goals to improve its -4 goal differential.
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Toluca 3, América 2
After an own goal gave the Aguilas the lead in minute 67, Pedro Canelo scored two late goals to give Toluca an upset victory. América dominated possession for long stretches and launched 27 shots, with 7 of them on target, but goalie Alfredo Talavera was on his game. Toluca’s tactical switch from a 5-3-2 to a 4-3-3 in the second half led to plenty of counter attacks for the Diablos and América was caught badly out of position on both of Canelo’s goals.
Santos 2, Querétaro 1
The Guerreros benefited from two own goals before the game was 20 minutes old, then held on with solid defense late. Their first win since Matchday 8 keeps them in the playoff race, but it was not a convincing performance. The game frequently got bogged down in midfield and Santos only got two shots on goal, but the back line stood tall, cutting off Gallos Blancos possessions with good positioning and tight marking.
Aguilar – Valdez – Aguilera – Sánchez
Ibarra – Rodríguez – Álvarez – Ibarguen
Edson Álvarez is back from injury after missing last week, but coach Miguel Herrera is tweaking his formation as he attempts to find production from his forwards. Striker Nico Castillo is also healthy after a 4-week absence and Roger Martínez will float behind him with Renato Ibarra and Andrés Ibarguen attacking down the flanks.
Abella – Nervo – Dória – Angulo
Vázquez – Rivas
Lozano – Correa – Preciado
The Guerreros have struggled to score and they can’t expect América to score into their own net as the Gallos Blancos did last week. Julio Furch and Javier Correa have failed to click this season, while Brian Lozano has suffered inconsistent form. New coach Guillermo Almada will start with the defensive-minded Ulises Rivas in midfield, but could bring on Diego Valdes and Diener Quiñonez if he needs a scoring spark.
América: Striker Nico Castillo was brought in by management because the Aguilas relied too much on defenders and midfielders for scoring. The Chilean had just begun to settle in when he pulled a hamstring on March 29 against the Tigres. He must rediscover his form quickly.
Santos: Guerreros defenders Hugo Nervo and Matheus Dória will have their hands full marking Castillo and must be alert to crosses from Renato Ibarra as well as the late follow rushes from América midfielders. They must also be disciplined on set pieces because América is potent in the box off free kicks.
América is in an unfamiliar position, facing a must-win game this late in the season. Still, the Aguilas are powerful in midfield and they overwhelm most teams they face in the center of the pitch. Santos is desperate, but have been an average team all season. I don’t see them rising up in Estadio Azteca unless América plays complacently. That’s not gonna happen.