After a subpar ‘Clásico Regio’ which displayed major deficiencies that both squads have been dealing with all season, followed by a lackluster 0-0 ‘Clásico Jóven’ draw the next day which lacked offensive depth and play creation, we are left with exactly five rounds to play in the regular season. As we prepare to enter the final stretch, there are little surprises as to the league table placing. León retook sole control of first after their anticipated road victory in San Luis, coupled with Cruz Azul’s draw, leaving ‘La Máquina’ one point behind ‘La Fiera.’ América follow closely in third, and behind them sit Pumas in fourth. The story has remained the same all season, with these four clubs finding a way to remain atop the table. Despite that, the two league finalists don’t necessarily feel like they’ll be drawn from that list, with a lingering Tigres following in fifth, and never-quitting Rayados who sit eighth, as they showed a couple seasons ago they can never be ruled out.
And with that, Round 13 is set to kick off tomorrow evening in Puebla, with ‘La Franja’ hosting Santos Laguna, in what promises an interesting matchup, given the two point differential between these two. That game will be followed by the León - Mazatlán matchup. This brings us to our Week 13 BOLD PREDICTIONS, and here they are:
- Atlas get another clean sheet vs. Necaxa and move into top 10. Since Week 5, Diego Cocca’s squad (who sit 12th in the league table) have only received more than a goal once (vs. León in Round 7). During that eight-game span, they have accumulated four clean sheets, conceding a total of five goals in said period. They host Necaxa on Saturday at 6 ET (5 CT), who own the worst offense in the league, with only eight goals scored to date. I see no reasonable explanation to why Atlas don’t obtain yet another 1-0 victory. Not only that, but the three teams above them in the table (FC Juárez, Toluca, and Puebla) all have tough matchups. I predict two of the three don’t win this weekend, and that would allow Atlas to jump into the top 10 for the first time this season.
- América claim ‘Clasico Capitalino.’ In what has been a very evenly matched rivalry in recent years (4 out of the last 6 resulting in draws, and each team winning one - including playoffs), América roll into this one on a 6-game unbeaten streak, with their last loss coming to the hands of Rayados all the way back in Round 6. Pumas, on the other hand, have shown weakness in their last two matches, having been utterly dominated vs. León even before their bogus red card, as well as this past weekend vs. Necaxa, with midfielder Favio Álvarez ill-advisedly tackling a rival from behind and fairly earning a sending off. While Pumas have shown strengths in some games this season, they have also failed to maintain consistency, as this should’ve been an undoubted ‘W’ for Lillini’s squad. And just as Herrera and company dealt with Chivas a couple weeks ago, I fully expect them to deal with Pumas, despite their three main absentees (Guillermo Ochoa, Paul Aguilar, and Jorge Sánchez).
- Querétaro defeat Rayados in La Corregidora. Rayados already knew they would have to face this matchup without key defenders César Montes and Jesús Gallardo, who are off to Netherlands to join the Mexican National Team in their upcoming friendlies. But now, another key absence has been added to the list, as Colombian forward Dorlan Pabón suffered a big hit in training yesterday, and it is feared within the Rayados camp he has a fracture in his left heel. Without these three key components, Mohamed’s squad prepare to enter a stadium which hasn’t been kind to visiting teams. Cruz Azul, América, and Toluca have all suffered losses there this season, and even first-placed León trailed with about 15 minutes to go in the match before completing their comeback. Gallos have known how to deal with the bigger and better teams who open up and attack their rivals. Considering Rayados’ wretched form of late, coupled with Gallos’ amazing home results thus far, I predict Querétaro will hand Rayados their fourth loss of the season Sunday night.