Alas, we are down to the final two clubs in the Clausura 2017 season. On one side we have what many consider to be the best team in the league, defending champions, Tigres of the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon. Their opponents will be the most popular team in North America, Chivas Rayadas del Guadalajara. Tigres finished the season as the lower seed and will host the Chivas in the first leg on Thursday night, with the Chivas closing out the final at home Sunday night.
These two teams head into the final on opposite ends of the spectrum. Tigres the defending champs, have already won three championships this decade, Chivas hasn’t been to a league final this decade. Tigres are a goal scoring machine, at this point in the season they are first in scoring with 36 goals, 10 of those having come in four Liguilla games. Chivas barely average a little over a goal per game and have only scored 3 goals in all of the liguilla.
Tigres play under the tutelage of Ricardo Tuca Ferritti, a coach who is known for his no nonsense attitude on and off the pitch. Ferriti employs a very organized style of play with a stout back line and lots of speed up top for very quick and effective counters. Chivas have Matias Almeyda who is calm, cool and full of charisma. While Almeyda’s style of play is just as attractive as el Tuca’s, it is completely different. Almeyda’s requires build up from the back, controlling possession, with short quick passing and long over lapping runs from his fullback. Tigres for their part has completely dominated every opponent thoroughly in the last five games; Chivas has only managed to win one in their last five.
Although, the differences between these two clubs are stark, heading into a final, you can pretty much throw every statistic out the window.
Let’s take a look at both clubs.
Last time Chivas played Tigres, they lost 3-0 in Monterrey, in a match that was rescheduled after a referee strike. The rescheduling of that match completely turned the course of the season for both teams. Chivas were in the hunt for the Copa MX and fatigue and injuries were starting to become a factor. Almeyda essentially lined up a b-squad against a powerful Tigres offense that went up early and never looked back
Almeyda is still dealing with some injuries but one thing is for sure, a B-squad will not be out on the field Thursday night. Expect a full backline sans Jair Pereira, who has been replaced by Carlos Salcido and he has completed an adequate job at the tender age of 36. Chivas’ trident in the midfield will be returning, both Pizarro and Gallito missed that first match and as we have seen both players provide a different dynamic to Almeyda’s offense. Up top is where there is still some cause for concern. Alan Pulido hasn’t scored a goal this post season but his work rate has been astounding. Part of the concern though is that Angel Zaldivar re-aggravated his injury and will likely not return for the final, Chofis has had a drop in his and Carlos Fierro, while having a tremendous work rate, just doesn’t finish plays.
For Chivas to come out of el Volcan with a positive result, Almeyda will need to dictate the game and control the possession with his style of play. Chivas are certainly not favored to win but the return of all those players to the lineup for this game could help Chivas come out of Monterrey with a draw. A draw in the first leg could bring el Rebaño one step closer to that elusive 12th championship.
Tuca Ferritti has assembled top to bottom one of the strongest sides ever in Liga MX. From the goalkeeper, Nahuel Guzman to Javier Aquino, Eduardo Vargas and of course French goal scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac, the team is littered with stars.
The club started the season off slow, but many believe it was a post championship hangover, Tigres defeated club America last December in a thrilling final and it took them some time to get back to their championship ways. In fact, it was the 3-0 victory over Chivas that changed the course of the season for Tigres. Since that April 11th win, the team went on to win eight of a nine games and scored 25 goals in that stretch. Their output wasn’t the only thing that was remarkable; their defensive prowess was impressive, as they only allowed a league low 13 goals through the semifinals of the Liguilla.
With that type of star power and fire power it’s easy to see why Tigres are the clear favorite heading into Thursday night. Yet Tuca’s teams have had trouble closing out finals, their last two championships had to be decided via penalty kicks after being the favorite in them as well. Tuca has the talent and a style of play in place that is perfect to counter Matias Almeyda’ style, but is his team hungry enough to take the first step Thursday night towards their 6th championship.
Date: Thursday, May 25
Time: 7:00 PM Pacific, 9:00 PM Central, 10:00 PM Eastern
Venue: Estadio Universitario, San Nicolas de los Garza, Mexico
Television: Univision Deportes (US-Spanish), UnivisionTDN (Mexico), TDN (Mexico)