Necaxa-León clash could provide plenty of fireworks

Angel Mena and Leon aim to win their fourth straight against Necaxa. (Photo by GUSTAVO BECERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
Angel Mena and Leon aim to win their fourth straight against Necaxa. (Photo by GUSTAVO BECERRA/AFP/Getty Images) /

The Rayos host franchise legend Ignacio Ambriz and the Esmeraldas in a key Matchday 10 fixture.

The league’s two highest-scoring teams square off in Estadio Victoria Saturday afternoon and the winner could potentially find themselves atop the table. Necaxa currently sits in first place, while León is two points back in fifth (fourth in our Power Rankings).

Necaxa shocked the pundits by moving into first place last week on the back of an impressive win over Monterrey, and another win would virtually assure they hold the top spot another week (unless Querétaro and/or Santos Laguna win in a rout). León started the Apertura slowly, but has begun to show hints of the offensive juggernaut that led them to 12 straight wins last season.

Necaxa v Leon
The battle between León winger Angel Mena and Necaxa left back Cristian Calderón (#26) of Necaxa could be decisive. (Photo by GUSTAVO BECERRA/AFP/Getty Images) /

The Rayos are undefeated in their past 10 home games (6-4-0) and have a 14 to 3 goal differential in five games at Estadio Victoria this season. Meanwhile, the Esmeraldas have become a dangerous road team (10-4-2 away from home since Ignacio Ambriz took over in September 2018).

Coach Ambriz – a legendary Rayo as a player – has won all three games he has coached against Necaxa since taking the León job … four months after Necaxa fired him.

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Last Game

Monterrey 0, Necaxa 2

Jesús Angulo scored twice to lead the Rayos to a big road win, climbing into first place over idle Querétaro. Necaxa was aggressive from the start, probing the Rayados defense for weakness from the outset. In minute 36, Mauro Quiroga directed a wall pass right into Angulo’s path as he split two defenders. The 22-year-old made a nice to move to dribble around keeper Marcelo Barovero and knock the ball into the net. Monterrey defender Miguel Layún was shown a straight red card in minute 55 and Necaxa was able to see the game out after that. Angulo scored again in minute 81to clinch the victory.

León 3, FC Juárez 1

The Esmeraldas offered a listless performance in their first game back from the FIFA break. The visitors went a man down in minute 27, yet took a 1-0 lead into halftime after Darío Lezcano scored in minute 40. The Bravos sat back on defense and kept León at bay until Video Assistant Replay confirmed a handball in the box. Angel Mena converted the kick (in minute 75) and eight minutes later defender William Tesillo knocked in a loose ball off a corner kick and León had the game in hand. Leo Ramos added another for La Fiera in added time.

Possible line-ups

Necaxa: 4-3-3


Chávez Soto – Noya – Alvarado – Calderón

Meza – Gallegos – Angulo

Salas – Quiroga – Delgado

Jesus Angulo celebrates after scoring his second goal against Monterrey during Necaxa’s 2-0 win. (Photo by JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Jesus Angulo celebrates after scoring his second goal against Monterrey during Necaxa’s 2-0 win. (Photo by JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP/Getty Images) /

Coach Memo Vázquez has his players attacking vertically and Mauro Quiroga has been masterful as point man. Maxi Salas came off the bench last week, but I think he gets the start against León. If the Rayos have a lead late, expect Alexis Pérez to come in for left back Cristian Calderón to form a 5-man back line with Angulo dropping into a left back role. If Necaxa is looking for a goal late, look for Kevin Mercado or Eduardo Herrera to come on as extra attacker.

León: 4-5-1


Navarro – Mosquera – Tesillo – Moreno

Mena – Montes – Rodríguez – Sosa – Meneses


When León is playing well, the 5-man midfield morphs a lot and the Esmeraldas will take on a 4-1-4-1 shape or a 4-1-2-3. Angel Mena and Jean Meneses will try to pull Necaxa’s defense wide and Luis Montes will try to exploit the space created in the middle of the field. J.J. Macías should be able to find room against the slower Rayos central defenders.

Key Players

Necaxa v Leon
Maximiliano Salas is Necaxa’s leading scorer this season, with 6 goals. (Photo by VICTOR CRUZ/AFP/Getty Images) /

Necaxa: Forwards Mauro Quiroga and Maxi Salas will have to get the better of León’s defensive tandem. Salas will have to use his speed while Quiroga is very good at drawing in defenders and distributing to the open man.

León: Forward Ismael Sosa could be the wild card for the Esmeraldas. With his dribbling and passing skills, he must exploit the opportunities he gets because the Necaxa defense will be keying on Macías, Mena and Montes.


The Rayos don’t know they aren’t supposed to be on top of the table and they have been playing freely and joyfully. Against León, they will have to limit the careless turnovers that the Esmeraldas can turn into dangerous fast breaks, especially because the back line is definitely not Necaxa’s strong point. Rayos goalie Hugo González will likely have to make multiple saves if the home team hopes to win. As for León, if they play without fire or inspiration like they did last week, they’ll be in for a long night. I expect a high-scoring game and plenty of end-to-end action.

Necaxa 2, León 2