Day 1 of the Liga MX quarterfinals saw América extend its unbeaten streak in Estadio Cuauhtémoc to seven games (5-2-0) with an impressive 6-1 dismantling of Puebla. “Los Azulcremas” left no doubt why they are the No. 1 seed with a dominant performance.
While the Aguilas have virtually assured their presence in the semifinals, Cruz Azul and Monterrey will have everything to play for in Saturday’s return match after the seventh-seeded Cementeros and second-seeded Rayados battled to a scoreless draw.
But before we consider what might happen in the second leg of these two series, we’ve got Day 2 of the quarterfinals on tap tonight. No. 6 seed Toluca hosts third-seeded Santos Laguna in the opener of Thursday’s doubleheader. The Diablos arrived at this stage by eliminating FC Juárez 3-0.
After resting at home over the weekend, No. 4 Pachuca pays a visit to No. 5 Tigres in what figures to be a very entertaining nightcap.
Rematch of Clausura 2018 Final
In tonight’s first match, Toluca comes in with a 6-2 advantage over Santos Laguna in Liga MX playoff meetings although the Guerreros won the last time they met in the postseason.
“Los Laguneros” claimed their most recent title in that most recent encounter, defeating Toluca by a 3-2 aggregate score. Back then, the Diablos came in as the No. 1 seed, while Santos Laguna was the fourth seed.
The only time these two franchises have faced off in a quarterfinal series was back in the Clausura 2017 and the Diablos Rojos advanced to the semifinals on that occasion.
As for the current rosters, Santos and Toluca met on Matchday 4 with “los Choriceros” defeating Santos 2-1, a game that was played in “La Bombonera,” the site of tonight’s game. Leo Fernández (11’ pen) and Jordan Sierra (25’) scored for the hosts, while defender Hugo Rodríguez had the only answer for the Guerreros. (75’)
That Week 4 loss seemed to spark the “Laguneros” as they embarked on a 5-0-1 run to climb into the upper ranks of the Liga MX table where they remained the rest of the season.
Santos defender/midfielder Ronaldo Prieto will miss the first leg, but central defender Matheus Doria has passed a fitness test and is available to play for the Guerreros for the first time since injuring his ankle back in July. In fact, his last appearance came against Toluca.
Past two Liga MX scoring champs take center stage
Even though André-Pierre Gignac and Nicolás Ibáñez are prolific in front of net, there’s no guarantee that goals will be frequent as Tigres and Pachuca boast two of the best defenses in Liga MX.
Tigres tied with Monterrey for fewest goals allowed (14) in the Apertura 2022, while the Tuzos were third best, conceding just 15 goals.
Still Gignac – the Clausura 2022 Golden Boot winner – is on a roll after scoring both goals in the club’s 2-0 wildcard victory over Necaxa, while Ibánez – the runner-up last season – took the Liga MX scoring crown this season after netting 11 times.
Tigres are up 3-2 in all-time playoff rivalry, but Pachuca’s wins came in Liga MX Finals (Apertura 2003 and Invierno 2001) so you might say they have bragging rights.
The most recent postseason meeting between these two sides came in the Clausura 2019 quarterfinals and featured a pair of 1-1 ties. Second-seeded Tigres advanced as the higher seed (Pachuca was a No. 7 seed) and went on to win their most recent Liga MX title.
This time around, Tigres is the lower seed (a No. 5) so they will have to outscore the fourth-seeded Tuzos to move into the semifinals.
These two met in Pachuca back on Matchday 7 with the Tuzos claiming a 2-0 win, both goals coming courtesy of Ibáñez.
But playing in “El Volcán” is a whole ’nother ball game and none of the current Pachuca players have won there. You have to go back to April 24, 2010, to find the last time Pachuca won on the road against the Tigres. Since then, the Tuzos are 0-5-10 at the Estadio Universitario and have been outscored 35-12.