Monterrey and the Tigres square off in the Liguilla only two weeks after the Rayados defeated the Tigres in the Concacaf Champions League Final.
One thing we do know, there will be a team from Monterrey in the Liga MX Final.
Soccer fans in Mexico – and across North America – will be treated to a two-game Clásico Regiomontano this week with the winner advancing to the Grand Final.
The Tigres will be looking for revenge after Monterrey stepped over them to claim the Concacaf Champions League title on May 1, earning a 2-1 aggregate win thanks to a 1-0 win at the Tigres’ Estadio Universitario in the first leg on April 23.
This semifinal match-up is the fourth time these two bitter rivals meet in the Liga MX playoffs in the past three years. Monterrey advanced out of the quarterfinals in the Clausura 2016 with a 4-3 aggregate win, but the Tigres won the past two times: a 6-1 aggregate win in the Clausura 2017 quarterfinals and – the big one – a 3-2 aggregate win in the Apertura 2017 final.
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Both teams are relatively healthy considering the number of games they’ve played this year: 27. The Tigres are 15-7-5 in all competitions, with a +24 goal differential (49 goals for, 25 goals against); the Rayados are 14-8-5, also with a +24 goal differential (50 goals for, 26 goals against).
Neither team was terribly impressive in the quarterfinals. The Tigres needed a late goal from André-Pierre Gignac to escape elimination, while Monterrey moved on by blanking Necaxa at home after being shut out on the road in the first leg.
The Tigres finished the Liga MX season with the No. 2 seed, so the return match will be played at their place. Monterrey claimed the No. 3 seed and Wednesday’s first leg will be played at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer.
Oh, and by the way, the Lady Tigres just defeated the Lady Rayados to claim the Liga MX Femenil championship. The second leg won by the Lady Tigres (2-1) was played at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer on Monday, prompting Tigres coach Tuca Ferretti to complain about the condition of the pitch.
Tigres 1, Pachuca 1
French striker extraordinaire Gignac ran onto a bouncing ball inside the box and headed home in minute 84 to salvage the Tigres’ season. Only 3 minutes earlier, Pachuca sub Angel Sagal had given the Tuzos a stunning 1-0 lead and they only needed to protect their goal for 10 minutes to pull off a stunning upset. The Tigres had enjoyed the better possession (59%), but had not really threatened until Gignac’s magical goal. Their defense looked a bit vulnerable at times, but goalie Nahuel Guzmán was sharp, especially in the first leg.
Monterrey 1, Necaxa 0
Rodolfo Pizarro had a spark of genius in minute 42, somehow creating room to get off a splendid shot in a crowd. The goal evened the aggregate score and when the Rayados maintained the clean sheet, they advanced as the higher seed. Pizarro was a whirling dervish much of the game (moreso in the first leg although the Rayados failed to score) and keeper Marcelo Barovero made 4 big saves.
Clausura 2019 result
Monterrey 1, Tigres 1
This Matchday 10 clash pitted the No. 2 Tigres against the No. 3 Rayados and the Tigres were playing without Gignac who suffered a knee injury the week prior. Rogelio Funes Mori gave Monterrey a chance to move past the Tigres into second with a goal in minute 34, but in the second half Rayados coach Diego Alonso opted for a prevent defense and it backfired when Luis Quiñones scored in minute 81 from a sharp angle. That marked the third time that the Rayados had given up a late equalizer after going into a defensive shell and coach Alonso was raked over the coals by pundits and Monterrey fans alike.
Layún – Sánchez – Medina – Gallardo
C. Rodríguez – Ortiz
Pabón – R. Pizarro – Hurtado
With Jesús Gallardo at left back, this represents the most potent Rayados line-up. No doubt, Rodolfo Pizarro will get considerable attention so Dorlan Pabón and Avilés Hurtado will have space on the wings and nobody is better at shaking their marker than Rogelio Funes Mori. Coach Alonso doesn’t have much offense on the bench, but Maxi Meza can provide some help from midfield and Jonathan González and César Montes are likely subs to protect a lead.
L. Rodríguez – Ayala – Salcedo – Dueñas
G. Pizarro – Carioca
Quiñones – Valencia – Aquino
Though this is coach Tuca Ferretti’s preferred line-up, they have not played together that much and they have looked tentative, especially against Pachuca. Javier Aquino and Gignac have missed time due to injury and Edu Vargas does not have Tuca’s full confidence. Vargas has even been displaced by Lucas Zelaráyan as the first attacking option off the bench. Juergen Damm could be used if Tuca decides to attack with better speed on the wing. Jorge Torres Nilo is often deployed as left back with Jesús Dueñas moving into an attacking midfield position.
Monterrey: Midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro has been marvelous over the past month and he will try to inspire the offense. He could face double and triple teams, so his early passing, movement and spacing will be critical.
Tigres: Midfielders Guido Pizarro and Rafa Carioca will be tasked with chasing Rodolfo Pizarro and allowing the central defenders to concentrate on Rogelio Funes Mori. When transitioning to offense, both Guido Pizarro and Carioca will have to avoid turnovers so as not to gift any fast breaks to the Rayados.
The Tigres will play at a patient tempo and try to frustrate the Rayados, while being alert to the counterattack. If the Tigres can avoid turnovers and find space on the wings, they will open space for Gignac in the box. Monterrey’s midfield defense of Carlos Rodríguez and Celso Ortiz will have the entire width of the field to cover which could open space for Carioca’s passing through the middle. This game will be intense and physical, and it could come down to which goalie is sharpest. But I don’t see the series being decided in the first leg match; these teams are too evenly matched.