The one-versus-two matchup in the Liga MX Final begins tomorrow night as Leon travels to Mexico City to face Pumas in the first leg. Leon arrives as the favorite after being the best team during the season, and although they haven’t played as vibrantly as during the regular season, they have still gotten the job done in the Liguilla. Pumas meanwhile will have a huge boost after their miraculous arrival, getting a 4-0 win against Cruz Azul after losing the first leg by the same score. It will be a tough hurdle, but Pumas will hope to continue their momentum as they face Leon in a key first leg match.
On Sunday, almost everybody had the final being Leon against Cruz Azul, a rematch of the 1997 Final where Cruz Azul last won a Liga MX title. Everybody that is but Pumas, who came out swinging and accomplished a football miracle by answering back their 4-0 loss in the first leg with a 4-0 win that gave them the title. They became the first team to come back from a 4-0 deficit in the first leg. Thus Cruz Azul once again wrote a new dark chapter in their history of underachieving while Pumas rose to the occasion. Pumas will be as inspired as can be, and they will also get the boost from the possible return of Alfredo Talavera, the goalkeeper who had been key during the season and probably the best player in the team during most of the season. That being said, they will not have the return of Favio Alvarez and because of injury, they will probably miss Facundo Waller for these games. Before losing the first leg of the semifinals Pumas had only lost once, and it was against Leon in a game where the 2-0 score flattered them, although Pumas did go down to 10 players in that game after Talavera was unjustly red carded. Pumas will have a tough matchup since Leon is a better team than Cruz Azul and unlike that team, they will not have the type of debacle that team had. A game like they had in the Semifinals first leg will be the end for Pumas. Being at home, they need to show up and be careful as they face the toughest rival possible for a final.
After a great season, Leon has gotten the results in the Liguilla but not with the same great style of play. They started by losing the first leg against 12th ranked Puebla. Although they dominated in the second leg en route to a 2-0 win and only great defensive play from Puebla allowed them to keep the score so low, they still didn’t shine. They then tied against Chivas in the first leg and defeated them 1-0 in the return leg in a semifinal where they showed a different style, keeping the ball away from Chivas but not really creating in a match which most fans thought was “boring”. Still they are the better team and would have been favored against either Pumas or Cruz Azul, but especially a Pumas team they dominated in the regular season and who although they had a great comeback, had to do so because they lost the first leg by a 4-0 score. Coach Ignacio Ambriz will have a lot to prove after having great regular season performances with Leon, only to flounder in the Liguilla. In part that can explain why Leon has been more cautious in this Liguilla and why they probably will be in the final and yet although they have yet to win an away match in the Liguilla, they have improved and showed they will be tough from the start.
Leon will be favored coming into the Liga MX Final, and yet Pumas have a big boost coming in. They have already been in certain situations including winning the 2009 Clausura Liga MX title against a Pachuca team that was just as big a favorite. The mountain that they had to climb against Cruz Azul is probably as tough as situation as they could face, and while they just conquered it, Leon isn’t Cruz Azul and Coach Ambriz has looked as more than ready this Liguilla to get past hurdles that they have suffered before in his tenure. Pumas’ Coach Andres Lillini will have his work cut out in both legs, but a good start is absolutely necessary if they will have a chance their first Liga MX title since 2011.
Game: Club Universidad Nacional A.C. vs. Club León
Date: Thursday, December 10th
Time: 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 p.m. Central, 7:00 p.m. Pacific, 2:00 a.m. UTC
Venue: Estadio Olímpico Universitario (Coyocán, D.F.)
Referees: REF: Fernando Hernandez Gomez, AR1: Christian Kiabek Espinosa Zavala, AR2: Enríque Isaac Bustos Díaz, 4TH: Jorge Isaac Rojas Castillo, VAR: Arturo Cruz Hurtado, AVAR: Carlos Ayala Cuéllar