The Apertura 2023 makes the turn for the home stretch this weekend and Matchday 14 offers Liga MX fans a pair of splendid Saturday night contests.
We first get a Finals rematch at 7 pm local time when reigning Liga MX champions Tigres pay a visit to Guadalajara. The Chivas will seek to put the weeks of clubhouse drama behind them by exacting a measure of revenge against “los Felinos del Norte.”
That contest is followed immediately by a match-up many pundits projected as this season’s final – América at Monterrey.
The league-leading Aguilas are holding up their end of the bargain, clinching a wildcard spot when Tijuana fell to Monterrey on Wednesday night in a game rescheduled from Matchday 4.
Will Liga MX holders repeat the dosis?
The Chivas barely resemble the team that stormed through the playoffs last season, upsetting América en route to the Liga MX Finals before coming up short at home in extra time.
Chivas Nation was knocked for a loop when the club announced that star striker Alexis Vega and two other players were suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.
There was talk that Vega, defender Cristian Calderón and rookie Raúl Martínez would be dismissed from the team, but management backed down and the trio was reinstated last week. Even so, the three transgressors are not guaranteed a spot on the gameday roster just yet.
Despite all the turmoil, Guadalajara has won its past two games, putting an end to a 0-2-4 streak that had sent “El Rebaño Sagrado” tumbling down the Liga MX table. The back-to-back victories have allowed the Chivas (21 points) to climb back to sixth and sends them into the Tigres clash with renewed confidence thanks to sparkling play from winger Roberto Alvarado and midfielder Fernando Beltrán.
Though Saturday’s game will be played in Guadalajara, it won’t be at the same venue as the Gran Final back on May 28, because Estadio Akron hosted a concert by The Weekend on Wednesday and the turf is unplayable.
The second-place Tigres (25 points) will arrive at Estadio Jalisco (home stadium of Atlas) on a five-game unbeaten streak and knowing that a victory will clinch a playoff berth.
Meanwhile, at the ‘Gigante del Acero’ …
Monterrey (23 points) – last season’s top seed entering the Liga MX playoffs – has battled injuries all season and is finally back near the top of the table thanks to a four-game unbeaten streak (3-1-0).
But team HQ still resembles a hospital ward as three Monterrey players left Sunday’s game at UNAM with injuries and none of the three were on the roster for Wednesday’s game vs Tijuana. In fact, coach Fernando Ortiz featured seven academy players on the bench – and four saw action, including 20-year-old Víctor López who scored the team’s third goal.
“The Striped Gang” has also faced an uphill climb thanks to postponements in their Liga MX schedule caused by their Nations League success.
Still, the third-place Rayados are just 7 points back of América and still have a game in hand. A win would all but secure a playoff spot for Monterrey, but beating the Aguilas will be no easy task.
“Los Azulcremas” have not lost a Liga MX game since Matchday 1 and the Mexico City giants have won seven of their past eight matches.
América leads Liga MX in scoring (30 goals in 13 games) even though star forwards Henry Martín and Julián Quiñones have started only three games together. At the same time, the Aguilas must learn how to generate offense without playmaker Diego Valdés who will miss the remainder of the regular season with a thigh injury.
The game at Monterrey’s Estadio BBVA Bancomer could be a high-scoring affair as Rayados defenders Erick Aguirre and Héctor Moreno are nursing knocks while América’s back line has struggled to stay healthy.
The game could come down to which goalie – Monterrey’s Esteban Andrada or América’s Luis Malagón – makes the most plays.
Come Saturday night, Liga MX fans should settle down for four hours of quality football. So, my advice: Get yer popcorn ready ahead of time.