Incredibly, Necaxa are inching back towards safety in the Mexican Primera Division. When the Rayos started their season with four consecutive losses, their relegation seemed all but assured. Since then, they're unbeaten in their last five games, notching three wins and five draws. Those 11 points have Necaxa at a relegation coefficient that is back above an even one, and they are now less than a tenth of a point behind Queretaro. Atlante, Jaguares, Atlas, and Estudiantes Tecos are all within two tenths of a point. If Queretaro drop points against Puebla while Necaxa rattle off a victory, the Rayos will climb out of the drop spot. Based on how poorly they started, it's crazy to think about.
Their streak comes under serious attack on Friday night as they take on Monterrey. The Rayados haven't been as potent in this tournament as the previous three, but they're still loaded with stars and managed by one of the best in the business, Victor Manuel Vucetich. Thankfully for them, Santos Laguna have been inexplicably poor this season, so 13 points in nine games is good enough for a guaranteed Liguilla place so far in Group 1.
Incredibly, this match is not just about Monterrey's Liguilla prospects and Nexaca avoiding the drop, but also about Necaxa's chances at Liguilla. With a win, the Rayos will move up to second place in Group 1, which would be good for a guaranteed Liguilla place. Based on their start and how good both Monterrey and Santos were in the last three tournaments, this seemed unthinkable just a few weeks ago.
If Necaxa are going to be able to get a point or a win out of this game, keeping a clean sheet will be key. Somehow, they've managed three wins and 11 points from just five goals so far, but that's not a major fluke. Their defense is fantastic, and it will need to continue to be fantastic on Friday night.
They made one signing to try to cure their scoring woes - Sergio Blanco - but he's only contributed one goal so far this season. Blanco was great for relegation rivals Queretaro and for Club Nacional in Uruguay, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him pick up his scoring sooner rather than later. Tonight would be a great time to start. Monterrey's defense is respectable, but hardly impenetrable. They have allowed 10 goals this season, so a Necaxa goal doesn't seem out of the question.
Monterrey are the better side in this matchup, there's almost no denying that. However, a few things need to be taken into account before predicting that they're going to pick up a win. First of all, Humberto Suazo is still out. Monterrey have won their last two games without Chupete, but both of those games were at home. That leads me to point No. 2, which is that Monterrey are pretty suspect on the road. With a solid no-loss streak intact and survival a serious possibility, the crowd could very well be intimidating at Estadio Victoria. Third, this is the Clausura in the Mexican Primera. Anyone who would bet money or make a guarantee on any game is a fool.
All the factors are in place for a potential upset, can Necaxa capitalize? Check out the match at 9pm ET on Azteca America or Fox Deportes.