Pachuca faces a steep uphill climb in the second-leg of their quarterfinals against the Tigres.
After the 1-1 result in the first leg on Wednesday, No. 7 seed Pachuca Tuzos knows it must win or earn a draw in a game with at least 4 goals. The second-seeded Tigres advance with a win or a 0-0 draw or a 1-1 draw.
The Tuzos have not won a single game away from home and are the league’s fourth-worst road team (0-4-5, 7 goals for, 22 goals against). The Tigres, meanwhile, are the fourth-best home team in Liga MX (6-1-1, 19 goals for, 9 goals against).
To make matters worse, Pachuca must play without leading scorer Franco Jara who strained a thigh muscle during the first half of the 1-1 tie at Estadio Hidalgo.
The Tuzos and Tigres are meeting in the Liguilla for the fifth time with each team winning twice. Pachuca won the first two (both in Finals – Invierno 2001 and Apertura 2003), while the Tigres have won the past two (Apertura 2011 quarterfinals and Apertura 2014 semifinals).
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Pachuca 1, Tigres 1
The Tigres became the first visiting Liga MX team not to lose in Pachuca’s Estadio Hidalgo this season by relying on a patient attack. Their dominance in time of possession (57%) reduced Pachuca’s effectiveness with the ball. Tuzos midfield general Edwin Cardona touched the ball more infrequently than he would have liked and Pachuca only got four shots on goal. Leading scorer Franco Jara left with an injury before halftime, while Tigres goalie Nahuel Guzmán looked sharp in making four saves. Tigres defenders Luis Rodríguez scored an unfortunate own-goal in minute 19, but the Tigres evened things up just 3 minutes later when Javier Aquino found the net with an angled shot from distance.
Rodríguez – Ayala – Salcedo – Dueñas
Pizarro – Carioca
Aquino – Vargas – Valencia
This formation effectively shut down a Pachuca attack that averaged 3.25 goals per game at home, so I see no reason for coach Tuca Ferretti to alter the back six. Up front, I think Edu Vargas can be more productive than was Luis Quiñones in the first leg. Vargas can work in the shadow of André-Pierre Gignac and he developed a good relationship with Enner Valencia while Gignac was out injured for 6 weeks. Lucas Zelarayán should be first off the bench if Tuca needs offensive spark.
López – Barreiro – Murillo – García
Aguirre – Sagal – Cardona – Guzmán
Franco Jara is out for the return match so coach Martín Palermo has to tweak his line-up. He could opt for Ismael Sosa instead of Angel Sagal. The key will be getting the ball to Cardona as often as possible and hope he has time to survey the field and work his magic. The Tuzos must also sustain possession which should allow fullbacks Raúl López and Manny García to get upfield and join attacking sequences. With that in mind, midfielders Erick Aguirre and Víctor Guzmán will have to step up and be more aggressive, especially in transition (both offensively and defensively).
Tigres: Midfielders Guido Pizarro and Rafa Carioca will be tasked with clamping down on Edwin Cardona which seems to limit Pachuca’s attacking options since the Colombian playmaker is the team’s quarterback on offense. They were up to the task in the first leg.
Pachuca: Striker Leo Ulloa might find himself as the lone striker and if he does, he’ll need to be very active and force the central defenders to move and react to him. If Ulloa can do that, he might create space for Cardona to operate.
The veteran Tigres know exactly what they have to do and playing at home provides them an even greater comfort level. Pachuca will have to play a very disciplined game, refusing to get frustrated at the Tigres’ slow-ball, keepaway style. But knowing they have to score to advance, the Tuzos will be vulnerable to mistakes. That’s all the Tigres will need.