Matchday 6 is in the rearview mirror, Liga MX clubs have pretty much finalized their rosters and pundits will soon begin to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
There are only four unbeaten teams with one-third of the 17-game regular season in the books.
The defending champion Aguilas of América and the two Northern Giants – Monterrey and Tigres – share identical 4-2-0 records, sitting atop the Liga MX table with 14 points.
The fourth and final franchise with a “0” in its loss column? The Rayos of Necaxa, last-place finisher a year ago. “Los Electricistas” are 2-4-0 – including a scoreless draw against América – and those 10 points have the minnows from Aguascalientes in eighth place.
Is The Big 4 back?
América, Guadalajara, Cruz Azul and UNAM earned the moniker “The Big 4” due to their popularity and their bulging trophy cases.
América and Guadalajara remain among the most popular teams in North America although the Chivas have struggled to make headway in the playoffs since winning their most recent title in 2017 (notwithstanding a surprise appearance in the Clausura 2023 Final).
While América has been a Top 4 seed each of the past seven seasons, its Mexico City neighbors Cruz Azul and UNAM have been inconsistent.
The Cementeros won the Liga MX title three years ago but has floundered each of the past three seasons, completely missing the Apertura 2023 playoffs.
After losing the Apertura 2020 Final, the Pumas missed out on the postseason three times, and qualified twice as a wildcard before a bounce-back last season. “Los felinos” finished fourth and reached the quarterfinals.
Since América defeated Cruz Azul in the Apertura 2018 Final, Big 4 teams have only won two Liga MX titles, a slump which led critics to question the validity of The Big 4.
But then the Aguilas cruised to their league-record 14th championship in December. And a glance at the Liga MX standings today shows all four members of The Big 4 in the top seven with a combined record of 14 wins, three losses and seven draws.
And this past weekend, América, Guadalajara, Cruz Azul and UNAM all won on the same weekend for the first time since March 2016.
We’ll get a special treat on Matchday 8 when UNAM visits Guadalajara and América hosts Cruz Azul in back-to-back games on Saturday, Feb. 24.
Liga MX coaching carousel spins again
Ignacio Ambriz will be prowling Liga MX touchlines again as Santos Laguna officially installed him as the new manager of the struggling Guerreros.
After a 1-1-4 start to the Clausura 2024, Dante Elizalde & Co decided to make a change. Out went Pablo Repetto after only 29 games in charge (a 9-5-15 record, and a staggering 59 goals allowed) and in comes the popular “Nacho” Ambriz.
“Nacho” left Toluca after a spat with management last October, less than year after guiding the Diablos Rojos to the Apertura 2022 Final. The 59-year-old coach has one Liga MX title on his résumé (León, Apertura 2020) in four total finals appearances.
Ambriz takes over a club that has undergone significant roster changes since losing the Clausura 2021 Final to Cruz Azul and appears to have opted for a youth movement.
Injuries have also hurt, especially last week’s loss of reigning Liga MX scoring champ Harold Preciado to an adductor strain that will sideline him another week to 10 days.
Cementeros sifting through free-agent lists
Cruz Azul won its fourth consecutive game on Saturday but saw striker Gabriel Fernández go down with torn knee ligaments.
The transfer window closed 12 days ago, so “La Máquina Azul” has little choice but to look for an unsigned free agent. After the transfer window ends, Liga MX rules only allow clubs to sign players that have not been registered with any other team.
That means pickings are slim and one wonders if the Cementeros might not be better served taking a look at rising starlet Mateo Levy, a 17-year-old striker that was given his Liga MX debut on Matchday 1 (a 4-minute appearance).
Coach Martín Anselmi has shown a willingness to trust the academy products on the Cruz Azul roster, and Cementeros Nation would love nothing more than to see a home-grown player become a star.