After long wait, Liga MX Final is upon us

Monterrey and América will fight over the Apertura 2019 trophy beginning on Dec. 26 with the Gran Final scheduled for Dec. 29. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Monterrey and América will fight over the Apertura 2019 trophy beginning on Dec. 26 with the Gran Final scheduled for Dec. 29. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Are you ready for some fútbol? A Thursday and Sunday night party … It’s time to decide the Apertura 2019 champ.

The two-week delay caused by Monterrey’s participation in the Club World Cup is over and the Liga MX Final kicks off on Thursday night in Monterrey. We already have early information about the starting 11 for América, but after sharing that we’ll discuss a few other odds and ends about the Rayados-Aguilas clash.

“Record” reported Wednesday that Miguel Herrera has settled on his starters with the only surprise (sort of a surprise) being that winger Renato Ibarra will not be on the field at the opening whistle.

“El Piojo” will use his first-choice back line, from left to right, Jorge Sánchez, Emanuel Aguilera, Bruno Valdez and Paul Aguilar. Guido Rodríguez and Richard Sánchez will be the midfield shield in front of the defense with Sebastián Córdova and Andrés Ibargüen taking aim on the flanks. Federico Viñas and Henry Martín lead the attack.

Ibarra and Gio dos Santos have been nursing knocks but both will be available off the bench. The Aguilas showed off their fitness with a a training session open to the public on Monday and their fans responded in force.

In addition to facing a strong Monterrey club, América is also fighting the Sixth-Seed Jinx. Never in Liga MX history has a No. 6 seed claimed the title.

As for the hosts of the first leg of the Liga MX Final, the Rayados have not revealed their starters but they did confirm that coach Antonio Mohamed will be back with the club for the Clausura 2020.

Will ‘El Turco’ lift Liga MX trophy this time?

Mohamed took over the club in midseason and turned around the club’s fortunes, as an unbeaten run down the stretch earned the Rayados the final playoff berth. “El Turco” became just the third coach in Monterrey history to return to the bench. Fernando Riera and “Pepe” Treviño preceded Mohamed as two-time Rayados coaches, but neither had the success that “El Turco” has enjoyed.

Liga MX final
Antonio Mohamed exults after Monterrey claimed third place in the Club World Cup via a penalty kick shoot-out. (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP) (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images) /

The Argentine manager has Monterrey in the Finals for a third time, but Mohamed has yet to hoist the Liga MX trophy with the Rayados. “El Turco” led Tijuana and América to titles but lost the Clausura 2016 to Pachuca and fell short to the Tigres in the Apertura 2017.

“El Turco” is the fifth manager in Liga MX history to guide a team to the Final after coming on as a substitute coach. But only once before has that coach gone on to hoist the trophy.

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During the Apertura 2002 season, Ricardo La Volpe left Toluca to take over the reins of El Tri and he was replaced by Wilson Graniolatti who led the Diablos into the playoffs and a 4-2 triumph over the Chivas in the semifinals. Graniolatti then resigned because he objected to La Volpe’s insistence on taking part in the management of the team. In came Alberto Jorge who directed Toluca 7-4 aggregate victory over Santos in the semifinals, followed by a 4-2 win in the Finals over Morelia.

The other three substitute coaches to reach a Liga MX Final only to lose were Ricardo Ferrero in Winter 2000 (he led Toluca to the championship series only to lose to Morelia on penalty kicks), Benjamín Galindo in the Apertura 2011 (“El Maestro” took over on Matchday 8 and led the Guerreros to the Final before losing to the Tigres) and Víctor Manuel Vucetich in the Clausura 2015 (“El Rey Midas” led Querétaro to the Final after taking over for Ignacio Ambriz but the Gallos Blancos lost to Pedro Caixinha and Santos).