Leon visits Monarcas to kick off quarterfinals

Joel Campbell (left) of Leon harasses Candido Ramirez of Morelia during their Matchday 17 game. (Photo by VICTOR CRUZ/AFP via Getty Images)
Joel Campbell (left) of Leon harasses Candido Ramirez of Morelia during their Matchday 17 game. (Photo by VICTOR CRUZ/AFP via Getty Images) /

The Apertura 2019 playoff party kicks off in Morelia as No. 2 seed Leon seeks to return to the Final. First step: Get past the Monarcas.

After 19 intense matchdays, the Apertura 2019 has seen the Liga MX winnowed down to eight teams chasing ultimate glory. The first match of the Liguilla features second place  Leon visiting No. 7 seeded Morelia in a showdown that could go either way due to the high skills both teams have on the field.

Leon finished the Apertura 2019 with 9 wins, 6 draws and only 3 losses giving them a grand total of 33 points, 4 points shy of first place Santos Laguna. Leon is led by attacking midfielder Angel Mena and young gun Jose Juan Macias and the Esmeraldas scored 38 goals, making them the second best offensive team in the Liga MX.

Leon’s main focus going into Estadio Morelos on Wednesday night is to earn no less than a draw although the Esmeraldas won 5 of their 9 road games this season, so they are capable of stealing a win in Morelia. They simply want to head back home with little pressure and rely on their home field advantage (4-5-0 at home) so they can move on to the semifinals.

But don’t think this will be easy. Leon has been playing without three key players who helped them reach the Clausura 2019 Final: playmaker Luis Montes, defender Andres Mosquera and midfielder Ivan Rodriguez. Montes was back on the bench last week but is not 100% after suffering a thigh injury. The club is also without solid back-up defender Ramiro Gonzalez Andres Mosquera. But if there’s something we all know, it’s that Leon will not go without a fight!

Morelia is one of the surprise teams of the Apertura 2019, finishing in 7th place with 27 points from 8 wins, 3 draws and 7 losses. The Monarcas started the season 1-0-4 before making a coaching change and under the direction of Pablo Guede, the team went 7-3-3.

The team from Michoacan has no real “stars” but they are not afraid to attack on offense or on defense. Scoring was a shared responsibility as Fernando Aristeguieta led the way with 5 goals while both Edison Flores and Carlos Ferreira added 4 goals.

Morelia is coming off a loss in its final regular-season game, but the club had already clinched a playoff spot and Guede rested some of his regulars. Now they will have to present themselves with full force at home and find a tactical way to stop Leon so they can continue to be the surprise team of the Apertura 2019.

These two teams met on Nov. 3 in Leon with the visiting Monarcas coming away with a 1-1 draw in a Matchday 17 contest.