The four lowest seeds emerged from the first round of the Liguilla, but not all of these teams are underdogs.
For the first time since the Clausura 2015, the lower seeded team won each of the four Liga MX quarterfinal match-ups. Two of these teams would certainly qualify as underdogs, but that would not be true for No. 6 seed América or No. 8 seed Monterrey.
Monterrey and América boast the two highest-payrolls in Liga MX. The Rayados wage bill surpasses 91 million dollars, led by Maxi Meza (15.9 million dollars) and Rodolfo Pizarro (11.4 million dollars), while the Aguilas salaries top come in just under 80 million dollars.
The other two semifinalists – Morelia and Necaxa – are thriftier and their payrolls are in the bottom third. The Monarcas have a modest 30 million-dollar payroll while the Rayos pay out just over 24 million dollars to their players.
As the hefty payrolls might suggest, the Rayados and Aguilas were considered preseason title contenders. Both came in tied as No. 2 betting favorites behind the defending champion Tigres. As for the other two members of the Final Four, Necaxa was well down the list at No. 13 with the Monarcas a bit lower at No. 15.
América eyes 14th Liga MX title
The Aguilas are aiming to extend its league record most titles after claiming its 13th Liga MX trophy one year ago, defeating Cruz Azul in the Apertura 2018 Final.
Miguel Herrera will be hoping to avoid extending his own league record. “El Piojo” has lost more semifinal matches than any other coach – 12.
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Of course, the flip side of that is that Herrera always reaches the semifinal stage. This season marks the ninth time he has led the Aguilas to the playoffs and he has gotten to the semifinals each time.
The Rayados of Monterrey have won four consecutive semifinal matches at home, including a 1-0 win over Necaxa last season. That victory came in the second leg of the Clausura 2019 quarterfinals and knocked the Rayos out of the playoffs. Necaxa had won the first-leg match at Estadio Victoria by a similar 1-0 score, but Monterrey advanced as the higher seed.
Necaxa was the best road team this season and has won seven of its past eight road games including a 3-2 win at Querétaro in the quarterfinals. The Rayos won six straight away games before losing the Liga MX season finale at Puebla. Among the victories in that six-game streak was a 2-0 triumph at Estadio BBVA Bancomer on Matchday 9, one of Monterrey’s two home losses on the season.
The Men with the Whistle
The Liga MX Referees Committee designated Jorge Isaac Rojas to handle the first leg of the Monarcas-América match to be played Thursday night in Estadio Morelos in Michoacán, Morelia. He handled the first-leg match between the Rayados and top-seeded Santos. Monterrey defeated the visiting Guerreros 5-2, while Rojas earned mild criticism for “reffing by VAR.” In other words, the head official hesitated to make critical calls and relied on video assistant replay to make decisions for him.
Fernando Hernández was given the assignment for the Rayados-Necaxa game set to take place on Wednesday night in Monterrey’s Estadio BBVA Bancomer. Hernández also saw duty in the quarterfinal round, whistling the second leg of the Monterrey-Santos series (a 1-1 tie).