We always knew Saturday night’s Liga MX semifinal match at Estadio Azteca was just a formality so it is no surprise that América obliged by going through the motions.
Although the top-seeded Aguilas lost to 8th-seeded Atlético de San Luis 2-0 – ending América’s 19-game unbeaten streak in league play – “Los AzulCremas” advanced to their first Liga MX Final in four years on a 5-2 aggregate victory.
TV commentators eagerly criticized América coach André Jardine for resting six starters (he spent quite some time screaming instructions to his players whose attitude appeared to range from disinterested to sleepwalking), wondering aloud what this might mean for the Aguilas in the Final.
On the pitch, Atleti controlled the match (55% possession) and outshot América 16 (5) to 4 (1). All that aside, the No. 1 seed is heading to the Liga MX Final where “Los Millonetas” will try to claim their league-record 14th title.
The other Liga MX semifinal series
América’s rival in the Liga MX Final will be determined tonight in “El Volcán” when the host Tigres tangle with the Pumas of UNAM. Tigres enter the match with a 1-0 lead secured in Mexico City on Thursday.
The Pumas have won just one of their past 11 matches against their northern rivals so the champs are expected to get a chance to defend their title.
The visitors will be without midfielder Santiago Trigos (red-carded in the first leg) and coach Antonio Mohamed might juggle his line-up a bit to get more attacking firepower.
Mohamed might be enticed to take that chance since leading scorer André-Pierre Gignac has not fully recovered from his sports hernia and will start on the bench for Tigres. (The Frenchman has missed two of the team’s past three games, including Thursday’s contest at the CU).
UNAM must play a complete game against the mighty Tigres, efficient when moving forward and flawless at the back. The Pumas – the team led Liga MX with 55 yellow cards – must also cut down on reckless fouls, particularly with the irascible Fernando Guerrero in charge.
As for Tigres, we know what to expect from Robert Siboldi's veteran side – poise and patience. The No. 3 seeds will seek to control possession and force the 4th-seeded Pumas to chase the game, hoping to exploit any mistake. And the Liga MX holders are more than capable of taking advantage of the tiniest slip-up.
Both squads have solid defenses (right back Jesús Rivas has been ruled out of the return match after the young Pumas academy product suffered a hamstring injury early in Thursday's first leg) and goalies Nahuel Guzmán (Tigres) and Julio González (Pumas) have enjoyed all-star quality seasons.
Look for this to be a low-scoring affair with some physical play all around the pitch. If Pumas can wear down Tigres while keeping them in check (the hosts are definitely nursing some bruises from the first match), they could be in position to snatch a late goal or two. And they need to win by two to reach their first Liga MX final in three years.