Here your five conclusions from the seventeenth week of play in the 2017 Liga MX Apertura.
Lobos BUAP finish season on a high after derby win
Sure, all eyes were on the Clasico Regio on Saturday, but a day before, south of Monterrey, there was a local clash between Puebla and Lobos BUAP being played at the Estadio Cuauhtemoc.
More often than not in the modern game, we like to stick the “Clasico” tag on just about everything. But this wasn’t another Clásico del Periférico or another invented rivalry. Both sets of fans took this game with the seriousness a Clasico deserves, and it was nice to see the Cuauhtemoc near full-capacity for once this season.
In terms of what was in play, both teams were already out of Liguilla contention before the actual game started, but it was Lobos BUAP who came out victorious thanks to a “Maza” Rodriguez goal. Beyond the Clasico victory, it helped Lobos end the season on a high and free from last place in the relegation table, where they currently sit four positions above Puebla.
A lo Atlas
Atlas will once again go into a Liguilla in the hunt for their first league title since 1951. No thanks, however, to their 1-1 draw to Pachuca on Friday. When the Rojinegros looked well on their way to sealing their place in the Liguilla with a win, in very much Atlas fashion the Rojinegros conceded a late goal to gift an already eliminated Pachuca a point. The Rojinegros did eventually punch their ticket a day later, but this was just another addition to the long line of dramatic finishes, often heartbreaking ones, the Rojinegros have suffered over the last 65 years.
Monterrey earn first place against rivals Tigres
The huge downside to Atlas’ late-game collapse is that they get to face none other than the “superlider” in the Liguilla. Pinned by many as an early preview of this season’s final, Monterrey showed why they are the best team in Mexico by defeating rivals Tigres 2-0 in the Clasico Regio and clinching first place.
There was no question about it, Rayados were the better team from start to finish, and arrive to the Liguilla as the big favorite to win the title. More than anything, though, this was a statement game, as Antonio “Turco” Mohamed’s men showed they have the depth to compete against any rival put in front of them. After defeating Club America midweek in the Copa MX semifinals, victory over Tigres was the icing on the cake, but now is the time for the part of the season that really matters.
Cruz Azul make first Liguilla in three years
It was three long years for Cruz Azul, but La Maquina are back in the Liguilla. From the start, Paco Jemez’s men knew that a win over lowly Veracruz was all they needed to clinch a place amongst the elite eight of Mexico and they got it thanks to a Felipe Mora goal.
Cruz Azul have not been the most consistent side over the last few weeks, but in some respect, this is the prize for the coaching staff’s hard work over the last year. Jemez has taken the media’s criticism head on, and in the process, has won over most of the Cruz Azul fanbase.
Whether Cruz Azul can contend for the title remains to be seen, but if they can get past Club America in the quarterfinals, anything can happen.
As ever, the Liguilla promises some enticing matchups
One thing is for certain, there will be a new champion in Liga MX. Chivas’ failure to make the Liguilla paves the way for a new team to conquer the title.
Obviously, a lot of the focus will be on the teams in Monterrey, with Rayados and Tigres the favorites to make the final.
Club America was also a team many picked to be champions, but a sudden downturn at the end of the season has left Miguel Herrera’s side in a bit of a limbo. They will face Cruz Azul in the quarterfinals, a team they have traditionally fared well against in the fiesta grande, and in a matchup that will no doubt be the highlight of the round.
The surprise team might come from Monarcas Morelia, Toluca, or Leon. This last one has played some of the most attractive fútbol all season, but going up against Tigres might fare too much for La Fiera.
At the end of day, no matter the matchup, one can expect plenty of excitement in the Liguilla.