Crucial first leg away awaits the Concacaf Champions League winners as they face a surprisingly competent Necaxa side.
Having just faced off two weeks ago at Monterrey’s BBVA Bancomer Stadium, in a game that ended in a 2-2 stalemate, this series could provide a surprise or two.
The Rayados of Monterrey come into Thursday’s game having just earned a big trophy (the Concacaf Champions League) and should be soaring with confidence heading into the first round of the Liguilla. Necaxa will be no pushover, however and they enter the series off a victory over Queretaro and lost only one of their final eight matches.
The away side will be without striker Angel Zaldivar who is on a red card suspension after being ejected last weekend against Atlas. The Rayados rested many regulars but were still stung by the 2-0 loss. Fortunately, Monterrey held on to the No. 3 seed for the playoffs.
Necaxa can be forgiven for being satisfied for simply reaching the Liguilla, a feat that is a benchmark for a successful season for the Rayos. Necaxa finished the season in sixth place on the back of a high-flying offense that was the league’s fourth highest-scoring team. Still, expectations are low so they might play looser and enjoy a good game at home.
More from Viva Liga MX
- Guillermo Ochoa is out 4-6 weeks
- The Clásico Regiomontano is Heating Up
- Pumas: In Search of Regaining a Top Spot
- Why the United States Is Set to Overtake Mexico on the World Stage
- Erick Gutierrez is out once again
The Rayos are only an average home team, going 3-4-1 with 12 goals for, 9 goals against. Monterrey was a very decent road team, going 4-1-3 with 10 goals for, 12 goals against.
Atlas 2, Monterrey 0
A hugely disappointing loss for Monterrey even if it was essentially a meaningless game as they had already qualified for the Liguilla and clinched the No. 3 seed. Monterrey also went a man down when Angel Zaldivar got a late red card.
Necaxa 1, Queretaro 0
A decent, if uninspiring win for the home side, earned as the result of a late goal by fullback Cristian Calderon. Necaxa could have claimed the No. 4 seed with a 2-goal win over the Gallos Blancos.
Clausura 2019 result
Monterrey 2, Necaxa 2
A brilliant result for Necaxa away from home, but arguably somewhat fortuitous because this game fell in the middle of Monterrey’s Concacaf Champions League finals matches. The Rayados used a makeshift line-up to rest their regulars but they more than held their own against one of the league’s best road teams. Necaxa scored early but Monterrey responded twice before the half. Daniel Alvarez knocked home the equalizer just after the hour mark, then each team had a man ejected.
Monterrey: Attackers such as Rodolfo Pizarro and Rogelio Funes Mori will need to be at their absolute best because they are likely to find opportunities and openings against the Rayos defense.
Necaxa: Defender Ventura Alvarado must offer veteran leadership as the back line – from the fullbacks to the central defenders – will be under assault from the outset.
It will not be an easy game for Monterrey, with Necaxa likely sitting back to make up for the departure of leading scorer Brian Fernandez and hoping to minimize the counter throughout the game. It might not be an entertaining match for neutrals either, but I think Monterrey is focused and at its best. The Rayados will simply have too much for Necaxa, especially as Rodolfo Pizarro has offered hints of his magical form of 2017.