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Breaking down the 2019 Apertura Liguilla Quarterfinals with Mariano Trujillo

The FOX Deportes anchor gives us his predictions on who will come out on top in the Liguilla

FOX Sports

The 2019 Liga MX Apertura Liguilla is upon us, and I reached out to Mariano Trujillo of Fox Deportes to get his thoughts on the upcoming matchups. Trujillo always has a good perspective on the game, having played professionally for almost two decades on two continents before transitioning to the media side of things.

While the one-versus-eight matches are usually pretty easy to call, this year’s one between Santos Laguna and Monterrey seems to be a bit tougher. Trujillo said that before the arrival of manager Antonio ‘Turco’ Mohamed that he thought that Santos was the better team, however at this point in the season “The atmosphere around Rayados has changed, especially after what I saw last game versus Atlas in Monterrey. I think it’s probably the first game that I’ve seen this season where the defense was connected with the (rest of the) team. And that was because of what the players and obviously Mohamed were able to create, being on the field and conveying that to the stands. I was on the field (for the match against Atlas), and I really felt something different. I felt that the fans were excited about the way they were playing in the first half. They trusted the team. The players all believe in Mohamed, so they have a lot of quality. They have a lot of quality and little by little Mohamed even changing that lack of confidence that they had with Diego Alonso.”

Trujillo continued by saying he still believes it will be close. “I think the key for Santos will be the intensity.” He believes that Santos can exploit Rayados’ offensive players’ hesitance to get back and defend. “They don’t feel the defensive side of the game,” he says. “They like to have the ball on their feet, but when when it’s time to play defense, they do it but they don’t like it so they’re not focused.” He also cited the quality of Santos’ players as an asset. “Brian Lozano’s playing really, really good. Eryc Castillo is a different player from the one we saw with the Xolos, and obviously (Julio) Furch is always a threat.”

“I think for both in a positive way and in a negative way intensity will be the key. If Rayados is able to match that intensity I think they have a good chance and opportunity to to get the victory. But if they don’t do it, I think that would be the key for Santos to to move forward.”

We then moved on to León versus Monarcas. “I think Leon is gonna win,” Trujillo says, pointing out that “I think the quality is the key.” He also notes that León has more points than any other team over the past calendar year. “They know what they’re doing on the field.” He also noticed that the players have gotten to the point where they don’t have to rely on verbal communication with one another, instead picking up on body language and other non-verbal cues. “They know what the players are going to know before they actually have the ball. All credit to Nacho Ambríz so I think the chemistry and understanding on the field will be the key for León to move forward.”

For Monarcas to win, it will be much tougher. “I know they haven’t been doing it and you will be crazy to change it but I think if they’re organized defensively and they’re compact, maybe giving a little bit of responsibility (with regards to) game management to León,” it may actually help Morelia. ”León is going go forward, they like to have the ball in their feet and they like to have possession of the ball. So in the counterattack, I think Monarcas can hurt León, and then starting with that manage the game accordingly to where they need to. But if they (try and go) toe to toe, I think León will go through.“

With Tigres and América, it was less clear cut. “They’re a perfect fit for each other. América is fast paced going forward,” Trujillo says. He also credits the maturation of manager Miguel Herrera’s tactics as a positive. “When he worked with Rayados and Atlante,” Trujillo says “he was more possession of the ball. Now, he understands that they can do that but they also have a lot of things going forward (into) spaces so they will use that.”

As much as Herrera has changed since his stints with other clubs, Tigres has remained the same. “Tigres won’t change,” he says “because it’s a team that is not a pacey team, but they have a lot of quality with the ball. So basically they have the ball moving, moving from one side to another, and kind of waiting in being patient to find the right gap at the right moment. Having Gignac up front, it’s a guarantee of goals. The only downside for Tigres I think is Nahuel Guzman.” Guzmán was ruled out for 10-15 days with an injured biceps, “so that that can be a huge advantage for América, especially in these tight games where the quality is pretty much even in the experience, and not just on the field but also on the bench. I think if América puts enough pressure to Lalo Fernández, they can they can go through. I still believe (though) that Tigres will go through.”

Finally, the Querétaro and Necaxa match also seemed like it would be close. “I like Necaxa,” Trujillo starts, “but I think overall Querétaro has a better team. They’re very pragmatic both of them their coaches, their style of playing, their teams but I think (Querétaro manager Víctor Manuel) Vucetich has that extra experience.”

“Not that (Necaxa manager) Memo Vázquez doesn’t have it,” Trujullo continues, “but I think Vucetich has extra experience, experience or extra knowledge playing Liguillas. He’s been there a lot of times. He knows what to do the right moment at the right time. He has players with experience In the in the roster so I think Querétaro based on that and the way they played against the big names this season in Liga MX the Tigres, Monterrey, Santos. I think they have a big chance it’s going to be close. But I think Querétaro will advance.”

Necaxa going through isn’t that far-fetched. In order for that to happen, Trujillo says “they need to be sharp. They need to capitalize on the opportunities they have. (Mauro) Quiroga is really good. He scored a lot of goals the season, but the build up to take the ball to that final third... sometimes is a problem.” Trujillo points to the Puebla match as having some red flags. “The last game they probably didn’t have intensity, but that can be a warning for them to determine talent and change their approach. (Against) Puebla, a couple of counterattacks hurt them a lot. And I think that’s Querétaro’s style because they also have some speed up front.”

“If they control the middle of the field, if they control the counter attacks, if they manage the tempo of the game, I think they have a good opportunity” Trujillo said. “Especially (when) putting the ball inside of the box for Querétaro could be dangerous. If they are able to do that, I think they have a good chance. Obviously that that’s really hard because Querétaro has intensity like I said, they have experience, and sometimes they are a physical team. In the middle of the field, they like to play a physical style of football, especially when they’re facing teams like Necaxa or Tigres. Or they try to be physical in the middle of the field and from their goal forward very direct.”

“So it’s a tricky one. I think the key will be in the middle of the field. If Necaxa is able to manage the tempo like I said, I’m thinking they have a good opportunity but I keep getting Querétaro going through.”