With the race for the top 4 seriously tightening up last weekend thanks to Rayados’ victory and draws by both Pumas and Tigres in their respective games, Round 16 has become even more appealing, in case it hadn’t by itself already. Out of the five teams still fighting over the 2-4 seeds, four of them play each other this weekend (Monterrey - Cruz Azul / América - Tigres). Those games by themselves are standalones. Not to mention, the added incentive to watch for this weekend. HINT: I may have revealed a couple of this week’s Bold Predictions.
With a couple more interesting games to be played out for Round 16, this could quickly shape up as the best round of the regular season, if the games live up to the hype, of course. With that in mind, we give way to this weekend’s BOLD PREDICTIONS:
- Cruz Azul lose control of 2nd place; fall to Rayados. Over the recent years, this matchup has been an extremely even one, with seven out of their last eight league meeting ending in draws. And while Siboldi’s squad is coming off an important road victory vs. Chivas, their last month has been one to forget. Before the Chivas match, they lost 2-0 twice in a row (vs. Tigres, @ Toluca) and played to a goalless draw vs. América. In other words, three tough teams, none of which they were able to overcome. Not to mention, their three road losses this season. Rayados, on the other hand, are winners of three straight and four out of their last five. Mohamed’s squad don’t have much to brag about either, as those four wins were all against non-playoff positioned teams. However, they did defeat América early in the season, and with Janssen re-gaining rhythm, Aké Loba revolutionizing the offense and back from his injury, and Cruz Azul faltering in the last month, I believe Rayados will hand ‘La Máquina’ yet another road loss and continue on their path to a first-round bye. With the win, Rayados would pull even with Cruz Azul, with their new position in the table depending on the other three teams’ results.
- Tigres continue unbeaten run and enter Top 4. It’s been 53 days since Tigres last lost a match (Sept. 6 vs. Chivas). Since then, they’ve been on a remarkable run of results winning five games to go along with two draws. They drew vs. league-leading León, and defeated Santos, Monterrey, and Cruz Azul in that span. They are clearly not afraid of the bigger teams and have shown the ability to overcome them. Unfortunately, they’re facing Miguel Herrera’s América, who have only lost one out of their last nine matches. The loss of Nico Benedetti will clearly weigh heavy on América, yet the return of experienced keeper Memo Ochoa this weekend gives them new reason to hope. Unfortunately for them, Nico López’s amazing form of late, earning him a spot in Tuca’s starting XI, along with Leo Fernández in top form, and Gignac being Gignac, I don’t see how this offense can be stopped. They are a freight train headed straight to the top, and a win this weekend would propel them to top 4 positioning, leaving América out. I predict this star-studded Tigres squad to continue to impress the league and defeat yet another big this weekend in Estadio Azteca.
- Santos surprise league-leading León; win 5th out of 6 games. When it comes to winning, it doesn’t get much better than León in the past two years. Nacho Ambriz has unlocked the secret recipe for maintaining a winning consistency that not even clubs such as Tigres have sustained over this long a period. Winners of 6 straight, 8 out of their last 9, and 10 out of their last 12 (as well as a 12-game unbeaten run), León enter this contest having already clinched 1st place overall and are only playing spoiler at this point. And it’s for this exact reason I believe Ambriz will give the instruction of not overdoing anything on the pitch in order to prevent any unnecessary risks or potential injuries to his players. On the other hand, quietly but surely, now winners of 4 out of their last 5, Santos have crept all the way to 8th place overall and are now fighting for playing the wild-card round at home. They are on a roll at the moment, and considering León have nothing more to play for, I predict Furch, Rivero, and those bad boys will have themselves a day when León return to their home stadium, Nou Camp. Santos take this one and hand León their first home loss of the season.