It’s a quick turnaround for both Atlas and Rayados this week who square off tomorrow as part of the Matchday 6 opening night ensemble following the Querétaro vs. León matchup. Both clubs just wrapped up their Week 5 duties on Sunday; Atlas rescued a huge 2-2 draw from Pumas in CU with an 87th minute score by Julián Quiñones, while Rayados defeated Toluca, one of last season’s finalists, to secure their 4th consecutive victory.
It’s been an acceptable start to the season for Atlas, considering they’re still in the adjustment process of playing under new head coach Benjamín Mora after Diego Cocca’s departure at last season’s end. Despite only defeating Mazatlán FC in their opener followed by 4 straight draws, the fact this club hasn’t lost a match is important, especially after losing 10 times just last semester.
They’ve managed to right the ship, and now find themselves 9th in the league table with 7 points, just 1 point back of 4th placed Santos. In contrast to last season, if there’s something this club hasn’t lacked in the current campaign, it’s scoring. Compared to their total tally of 16 goals during the Apertura 2022, they’ve managed to rack up 9 thus far in just 5 matches. It’s clearly something they intended to address, and they have.
Rayados, who got off to an ugly start in their opening 0-1 home loss to Chivas, have clearly turned things around quickly by winning their next four matches, despite losing starting RB Erick Aguirre to injury in their Week 3 matchup against San Luis. After his two week absence, he’s been medically cleared and will be available for Vuce to deploy if he sees fit. On the other hand, he might not want to mess with the lineup currently involved in this winning streak.
And speaking of high-octane offenses, Monterrey have scored 10 goals thus far (3rd best in league), but more than that, it’s who they’ve done it against. Road victories at Cruz Azul and Puebla, as well as taking out Toluca at home isn’t a bad resume at all to start your season. Those are always tough tests. The one at Atlas tomorrow will be as well. Their 4 victories have them atop the league table tied with Pachuca.
There is a small but, however, for Vucetich’s squad. Duván Vergara, who exited the Toluca match in tears, was confirmed to have suffered a small muscle injury in his left leg, similar to that of Erick Aguirre’s. Club Media Director Everardo Valdez confirmed the news and added he’ll be out from 2-3 weeks. So fortunately, nothing major. Now, Vergara hasn’t had anything close to a crucial role this season, and has been nothing more than a role player, but the absence of the added depth he brings to the squad will be noticed.
Atlas are one of the most physical and gritty teams you’ll find in Liga MX. They close out spaces and like to apply pressure in all areas of the pitch. Coincidentally, that’s the secret recipe to defeating Rayados, who are the complete opposite at different times in games. Monterrey players float around a lot, don’t make the runs they should, and after usually giving high effort the first 15-20 minutes of a match, slowly die down and let the other team take control, just like they did on Sunday with Toluca.
On top of that, Rayados’ defense continues to leave much to be desired, giving opponents plenty of space to work with the ball. I expect that to bite them tomorrow against this suddenly Atlas dangerous offensive unit. This matchup has been very evenly matched over the past years, meaning any club is just as likely to win. With that being said, I expect Atlas to come out motivated to stop Rayados’ win streak and do so.
Atlas 2-1 Monterrey
MATCHUP: Atlas vs. Monterrey
DATE: Thursday, February 9, 2023
TIME: 7:05 pm PT | 9:05pm CT | 10:05 pm ET
VENUE: Estadio Jalisco | Guadalajara, Jalisco
TV: US - VIX+, FuboTV (free trial) | Mexico - Afizzionados (IZZI)