‘Liguilla’ features Tigres-Cruz Azul, plus ‘Jalisco Classic’

There's no love lost between the Tigres and Cruz Azul, foes in this week's Liga MX quarterfinals, who famously got in a scuffle after a preseason match two years ago. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)
There's no love lost between the Tigres and Cruz Azul, foes in this week's Liga MX quarterfinals, who famously got in a scuffle after a preseason match two years ago. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images) /
Liga MX quarters preview
The “Clásico Tapatío” might be decided by which one of these players – Julio Furch of Atlas (left) or Alexis Vega of Chivas –has the best series when the two Guadalajara-based teams meet in the Liga MX quarterfinals. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images) /

The Liga MX quarterfinals kick off Wednesday night, officially launching what’s known in Mexico as “La Liguilla,” and the match-ups are quite intriguing.

We have a “Clásico Tapatío” in the playoffs for a fifth time, an América-Puebla clash that hearkens back to the 80s-90s when these two clubs met four times in the Liga MX playoffs, a clear underdog taking on the No. 1 seed, and perhaps the best of the lot – No. 2 Tigres tangling with the eighth-seeded Cementeros of Cruz Azul in a grudge match.

The Tigres visit Estadio Azteca on Thursday night to get their “Liguilla” party started, with the return match slated for “El Volcán” on Sunday night. These two teams met on Matchday 8 in Monterrey, battling to a 2-2 draw. The Tigres leapt out to a 2-0 lead at the half hour mark but “La Máquina Celeste” clawed one back just before the halftime whistle and tied the score in minute 90+2.

These two clubs last met in the Liga MX playoffs after the Guardianes 2020 season with Cruz Azul advancing 3-2 on aggregate. That quarterfinal series came just five months after a near-brawl between the two rivals following a preseason Cup match that the Cementeros won in a shootout.

Guadalajara Derby is Liga MX elixir

The Chivas host Atlas in Thursday’s nightcap providing Liga MX fans with a “Jalisco Classic” and “El Rebaño Sagrado” would love nothing more than to knock the crown off Atlas’ head.

The Zorros are defending their second Liga MX title (their first came back in 1951) and intend to start off their defense by declaring themselves Kings of Guadalajara.

The return match will be Sunday night in Estadio Jalisco. These two rivals played to a 1-1 draw on Matchday 11 with the host Zorros finding the equalizer as the clock struck 90.

The Wednesday-Saturday match-ups

The curtain-raiser for the quarterfinals will see No. 1 seed Pachuca face No. 10 Atlético de San Luis on Wednesday night. These two teams have never met in the playoffs.

The upstart Tuneros made the postseason for the first time ever last season where they were knocked off by Santos Laguna in the wildcard round.

This time around, San Luis shocked everyone by winning a penalty shootout against the heavily favored Rayados de Monterrey whose payroll exceeded that of the Tuneros by 962 million pesos. Yep … a roster worth nearly 1 billion pesos more came up short against a modest club that lost its captain and best defender only 12 minutes into the match.

The Tuneros will have to make do without skipper Unaí Bilbao for the rest of the Liga MX playoffs (the Spanish defender tore his MCL). They’ll take on the Tuzos at Estadio Hidalgo in the return match on Saturday night.

The Wednesday nightcap will be in Estadio Cuauhtémoc with host Puebla taking on the hottest team in Liga MX, América.

The fourth-seeded Aguilas – on an 8-game unbeaten streak – will be favored to advance to the semifinals, especially as the No. 5 seed Camoteros have not won at home since Feb. 18 and have not won at Estadio Azteca – the site of Saturday night’s return match – since Oct. 31, 2011.

The two sides played to a 1-1 draw in Puebla on Opening Night. “La Franja” went on to have great start (6-3-0) before cooling off, finishing 1-2-5 and then advancing to the quarterfinals by winning a penalty shootout against No. 12 seed Mazatlán FC (after a 2-2 draw).

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Following the draw in Puebla, América stumbled to a poor start that had them in last place after Matchday 9 with a 1-3-5 record. A coaching change turned around the Mexico City giant’s fortunes and their 6-2-0 streak to close out the season catapulted them into fourth place.