The Apertura 2023 final promises quality futbol as it features the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked offenses going up against the No. 1 and No. 3 defenses.
Top-seeded América (40 points) ran away with the regular-season honors – 7 points clear of second-place Monterrey and 10 points better than Tigres, their Finals opponent.
The Aguilas boast the most explosive offense in Liga MX – 37 goals – while also featuring the stingiest defense – 14 goals allowed.
Tigres, the defending champs, were second with 32 goals scored and tied for third-best defense, conceding 18 goals.
Who to watch for on offense
The top three goleadores in 2023 will be on the pitch during the Finals.
América’s dynamic duo of Julián Quiñones (22 goals) and Henry Martín (20) were the most prolific scorers this calendar year although 13 of JQ’s goals came while he was with Atlas last season.
Tigres striker André-Pierre Gignac has 19 goals in his account in 2023.
All three have been productive during the playoffs thus far with JQ rippling the net three times, one fewer than Henry has. Gignac contributed a brace in his lone start during the current Liguilla (the Frenchman has missed two playoff games entirely with a sports hernia and saw just 8 minutes of action on Sunday) but Tigres coach Robert Siboldi said APG is good to go tonight.
Oh, and Aguilas playmaker Diego Valdés is sixth on the scoring list with 16.
Who to watch for on defense
The most intriguing defender to keep an eye on is América’s Igor Lichnovsky.
The Chilean was told by Tigres at the start of the season that he would not be on the roster but “los felinos” could not find a willing trade partner.
After the first month-and-a-half of the Apertura 2023, the Aguilas suddenly found themselves with a depleted back line. Even so they declined the Tigres’ offer to sell the 29-year-old. Tigres were so eager to get him off their books that they came back with a better deal – they would loan Lichnovsky to the Mexico City giants AND pay his wages.
América finally relented, figuring they could use the veteran as a stop-gap then relegate him to the bench and rely on him for mop-up duties or as needed.
Lo and behold, Lichnovsky played at an All-Star level and earned the starting job alongside Sebastián Cáceres.
Even though Tigres might seem to have been the loser in this arrangement, they figure to benefit because Lichnovsky is now worth more on the open market.
As for Tigres, Samir Caetano and Guido Pizarro will have their hands full in front of goalie Nahuel Guzmán, but they ooze veteran savvy and have formed a solid partnership since Samir returned from injury
Left back Jesús Angulo can be expected to form a trio of defenders with midfielder Rafa Carioca sitting deeper than usual to hold off the potent Aguilas attack.
Look for Tigres to be on the prowl tonight
The champs are determined to head to the capital for the Gran Final with an advantage, so look for them to attack down the wings where América is most vulnerable.
Expect Diego Lainez to be active on the left while Sebastián Córdova and Fernando Gorriarán will fill the lanes on either side of Gignac. On the right, fullback Javier Aquino will be allowed to chase forward, probing for openings to send crosses into the box.
Midfielder Juan Pablo Vigón is dangerous following up plays and arriving in the box when least expected.
Tigres will likely press high and try to make it difficult for América to carry out of their zone and Aguilas goalie Luis Malagón is not known for accuracy with his clearance kicks so the hosts will surely chase him when he receives back passes.
Odds and Ends
América is unbeaten in its last nine matches vs Tigres. The Aguilas had won eight straight until settling for a scoreless draw in a meaningless season finale back in November.
Gignac needs just two goals to pull even with Toluca legend José Saturnino Cardozo for most goals in Liga MX Finals matches. “El Demonio Paraguayo” found the net nine times in Finals. Gignac sits in second place along with Carlos Hermosillo and Humberto Suazo with seven goals.