It’s been a surprising first half of the season for Chivas to say the least. Through 8 matches, they find themselves with a 4W, 3D, 1L record. Nobody could’ve predicted that; not with this team. They sit 6th in the league table, but more importantly, just 1 point behind the #4 spot (Pachuca) which secures them a spot in the quarterfinals.
With that being said, those numbers can definitely be a bit tricky. Their 4 wins have come against FC Juárez, Tijuana, Pumas, and of course their season opener at Monterrey. And a couple of them, including the Pumas win on Saturday haven’t really been deserved. They’ve really lagged during certain stretches of games and you just know that’ll end up costing them down the road as the pressure begins to mount in the season and they play the better teams.
Such was the case at CU on Saturday. They made countless defensive mistakes, turned the ball over in high-risk zones and allowed Pumas to step all over them. It was not a habitual performance for a top 6 club. With a little more aim on Rafa Puente Jr.’s squad, it was a sure loss for Paunović’s and company.
Tigres on the other hand, are coming off a huge 0-1 road win against Atlas. It was their 5th victory of the season, and that to go along with their 3 draws makes them one of the last two undefeated clubs remaining (América). They sit 2nd overall in the league table with 18 points, only behind their archrival Rayados.
The biggest takeaway from the Atlas win was Nico Ibáñez’s performance. He managed to sneak through the Atlas defense, took the ball down the flank, won headers inside the box, and was very involved in play creation, causing much damage apart from his goal. And what a better time for him to show up than during Gignac’s injury? Especially since the French striker has just been ruled out again for tomorrow’s match due his muscle tear suffered last week prior to the Atlas match.
Another important note for the San Nicolás-based club is the fact they’re currently the best defense in the league. They’ve only allowed 4 goals thus far. León is the next closest club with 6 conceded.
If Tigres can pull away with the victory (and I fully expect them to), Rayados face a tough visit to León on Monday night, which could no doubt end in a loss. If that combination of results gives, Tigres would take over as league leaders. So, a huge week for both regio clubs. I also expect this to be the beginning of a decline for Chivas which will end up returning them to the places they belong (9-12). In other words, they should be the road team in a repechaje match. They haven’t proven to have the mental fortitude to be above that so far.