After an opening round dominated by upsets, order was restored during the Liguilla semifinals as UANL Tigres and Santos Laguna moved on to the Apertura 2011 championship. Arguably the two best teams in the league this season, Tigres and Santos played to their strengths during the semifinal round. Tigres again relied on defense, holding Queretaro scoreless over both legs. In Sunday's deciding match, Tigres dominated possession en route to a 1-0 win. Santos, on the other hand, used their potent attack to qualify for the final. Led by Christian Suarez, Santos scored three goals at home on Saturday night to narrowly dispatch Monarcas Morelia.
With the win, Santos advance to their third Liguilla finals in the last four seasons. Just like their last trip to the finals -- during the Apertura 2010 season -- they face a team from Monterrey. A year ago it was the Rayados who won the league title, and this time Santos will look for some revenge against their cross-town rivals Tigres. A Santos win would earn the club its fourth title in history, and first since 2008.
Tigres have waited a bit longer since their last league trophy. It was way back in 1982 that Tigres last celebrated a title, and the club's loyal fans hope this is the year that finally ends nearly thirty years of championship drought.
Even without the history, this match-up between two great northern clubs has the makings of a classic final. Santos, the leagues highest scoring team, brings an imposing attack to the match-up, while Tigres counters with the league's best defense. Santos scored 29 goals during the regular season, and have added eight more during Liguilla play. Tigres conceded a league-low thirteen goals this season, and have yet do be scored on during the playoffs. Something of course will have to give when the two sides collide beginning on Thursday night.
The Liguilla finals kick off on Thursday night at Estadio Corona in Torreon, with the return leg scheduled for Sunday at Estadio Universitario in Monterrey.