In late October, the season finale at “El Volcán” looked to be the Game of the Season. A showdown between the two best teams in Liga MX.
Mighty América, the winningest team in Liga MX history, vs Tigres, the most successful team of the 21st century. A flashback to the epic postseason clashes of last decade.
Now, however, the match-up could shape up to be little more than an exhibition as far as Tigres are concerned. The defending champs are more concerned about entering the playoffs in good stead rather than testing themselves against the Aguilas.
For América, even after clinching the No. 1 seed throughout the playoffs, the chance to set the all-time Liga MX record for points in a 17-game season gives them incentive to go all out for the win.
Tigres hit a bump in the road
After the Northern Giants crushed Guadalajara 4-0 on Matchday 14, there was anticipation that the battle for the No. 1 seed could come down to the final weekend.
Streaking América had a 5-point lead atop the Liga MX standings at the time while Tigres appeared to be finding its form at just the right time though they would need some help to overtake the leaders.
The Aguilas spanked third-place Monterrey that same Matchday 14 weekend, then edged fourth-place Atlético de San Luis four days later while Tigres stumbled against Tijuana, effectively ending the drama.
So with a top four spot guaranteed in the Liga MX playoffs, Tigres put it in cruise control, settling for a tie at San Luis last weekend. That result allowed their crosstown rivals – Monterrey – to climb past them into second place, leaving the Liga MX table looking like this:
- América – 39 points
- Monterrey – 32 points
- Tigres – 29 points
- Chivas – 27 points
Even though “los felinos” could leapfrog Monterrey with a win over América and a Rayados loss at lowly Querétaro, Tigres coach Robert Siboldi has hinted that he will rest some of his regulars so as to be better positioned when the quarterfinals kick off in about three weeks.
Blessed with a veteran squad, Siboldi is not too concerned about overall seeding, especially after Tigres marched to the Liga MX title last season as the No. 7 seed.
Sebastián Córdova – the MVP of Tigres playoff run – was banged up early in the season and he is needed at full fitness so he might not see action Saturday. Top striker André-Pierre Gignac has missed some time down the stretch so his minutes will be monitored, too.
Another two players could be scratched to protect them from getting a fifth yellow card – and the suspension that would go with it.
Diego Lainez won the left winger job midway through the season and he and All-Liga MX goalie Nahuel Guzmán are sitting on four yellow cards. Both are critical to the team’s chances to defend the title. Córdova also has four yellow cards.
Chasing Liga MX history
The Aguilas, on the other hand, need a win to surpass the all-time Liga MX record for points in a 17-game season.
With 39 points, “Los AzulCremas” are just 2 behind the benchmark set by León during the Clausura 2019, a season in which the Esmeraldas won 13 consecutive games to establish another Liga MX record.
It might be worth keeping in mind that León did not win the title that season, coming up short in the Final against Tigres.
América is also positioning itself to extend its Liga MX record for most championships. The Aguilas currently have 13 league trophies, one more than Guadalajara, last season’s runner-up (to Tigres, of course).
The Mexico City giants will also be looking to extend their club record streak of scoring: América has found the net in 27 straight games.
Even so, coach André Jardine has said he will rotate his line-up although this is not a big surprise as he has been fiddling with his rotation from Day 1.
All this being said, both clubs have deep, talented rosters, so whomever takes the field at “El Volcán” will put on a show for Liga MX fans.