It's Time for La Fiesta Grande

Monterrey will have a chance to defend the title

There are two liguilla’s every year, and a lot of times they can be borefest, which is good, if it is promoted as 18 days of ennui.

But TV channels want folks to watch, so 18 days of ennui might be a better suited marketing campaign for something else, like the Spanish super clasico.

This liguilla promises to be one of the more entertaining in years. Just look at the guest list.

The big 4 are all here, which is not to be confused with the Fireman’s 4 I was schlocking all day Saturday. Pumas, Cruz Azul, America, and Chivas are all present and accounted for. It doesn’t happen often: only the 4th time in 30 short season liguillas. And if they all win their first round tilt, they will face off in the semis.

Standing in their way are 4 other high-profile teams. The two clubs from Monterrey are here. Tigres caught and passed Pumas on the last matchday and will take the top seed (good luck with that). Monterrey sneaked in with a 40 yard deflection in 2nd half stoppage time to beat Chivas, 3-2. Up next for them is Pumas. Morelia have been strong all season, and the TV Azteca owned team will play the Televisa owned team, Club America. And the surprise team, Atlante, will continue its 95th anniversary celebrations as they square off vs. Cruz Azul.

Remember, the first two rounds of the liguilla are two-legged ties, where the higher seed need only a tie to advance. No weighted away goals need apply.

(8) Chivas vs (1) Tigres
It all gets going this Wednesday night in Guadalajara. When last they met, busloads of Tigres fans made their way to the Omnilife to witness a 0-0 draw. It is likely there will be more of the same. Tuca’s Tigres have only seen their goal breached 9 times while Chivas have struggled at times to find the back of the net.

It is almost impossible to handicap the league, especially a 8-1 tie, but a good barometer is how teams are playing coming into the post season. No team is hotter than Tigres; they have reeled off 4 in row and have only one loss in their last 14 matches. Chivas has not won since their glorious 3-0 win over America a month ago.

Chances of an upset – 30%. Marco Fabian has been nothing short of sensational all season for Chivas, and he will need a lot of help to get past Tigres’ strong defense. 8 seeds seem to be more dangerous when they just manage to sneak into the party. Guadalajara fell to the 8 seed with an anemic end to their campaign.

But that Top Seed Curse may come into play again.

(5) Cruz Azul vs (4) Atlante
Atlante started the season with very real relegation worries, but their nomadic coach, Miguel Herrera, should be commended for not only steering the iron seahorses in away from the drop, but doing so with a somewhat limited roster. Limited roster is certainly not a way to describe Cruz Azul, but even with their star-studded line up, the cementeros have struggled in the last third of the season. They have only mustered up 1 win in their last 5 tries. 3 of those have been without their injured midfield general, Gerardo Torrado, who will not be available this round. These two met early in the season in Cancun, a 3-0 Atlante romp.

Chances of an upset: - 45%
4/5 tilts are by definition evenly matched, and this is no different. Cruz Azul has what it takes to make it to the end as the last team standing. Plucky little Atlante won’t be easy to topple.

(7) Monterrey vs (2) Pumas UNAM
Thursday kicks off with Pumas visiting Monterrey. Even with losing to their cross-town rivals to end the season, Pumas have enjoyed one of their best regular seasons ever. But it won’t squat unless they advance in the liguilla. Rayados are hurting, running on fumes, and playing with house money. In other words, they are extremely dangerous. They met earlier in the season at CU, with Pumas holding on for a 3-2 win.

Chances of an upset - 60%. Monterrey cannot be overlooked at all, and any loss of concentration will spell for doom for Pumas. As RSL learned last week.

(6) Club America vs (3) Morelia
The first-leg schedule concludes with a home game for America at Queretaro’s La Corregidora stadium. The Azteca has been booked for a U2 Concert. America is another squad that comes into the post-season red hot. They have not lost since they fell flat at the Omnilife, but they are also the only squad in the post-season that is playing in the Libertadores. They have both ties this week. It also doesn’t help that haven’t defeated Morelia, home or away, since 2007. Morelia and Club America have the most prolific offenses in the playoffs, but they also have the worst defenses. It’ll be like watching an old AFL game.

Chances of an upset: n/a. It will all depend on how Club America decides to manage their two tournaments.

Then they do it all over again this weekend: Chivas-Tigres and Atlante-Cruz Azul Saturday, then UNAM-Monterrey and Morelia-America on Sunday.