Liga MX W2W4: Can Leon stay unbeaten on the road? Tigres, America clash in playoff preview
It's almost time for Week 12 of the 2019 Clausura! Before Liga MX returns with its latest set of matches, here are three things to watch out for.
Can Leon keep up a near-perfect record away from home?
So many things appear to be working in Leon's favor. The club has been applauded by the Mexican soccer media for having arguably the best-performing player in the league (Angel Mena), an inspired backline and a good balance of players. Yet one thing that hasn't been discussed enough is Leon's incredible form away from home.
Here's a quick rundown of the team's five away games this season: 2-2 draw with Monterrey, 4-0 win over Queretaro, 3-0 win over Club America, 3-1 win over Pumas and a 1-0 win over Lobos BUAP. That's 13 of a possible 15 points with 13 goals scored and just three conceded. No team in Liga MX has a better goal differential in away games (plus-10) -- or in all games, for that matter (plus-19) -- than Leon.
Keeping that in mind, it looks like Leon should be able to continue its red-hot away form against Morelia. On Friday night, the league's third-worst team will have the pleasure of hosting the most deadly and lethal attacking side in Liga MX. Despite the fact that a win or at least a draw for Morelia wouldn't be much of a shock in a competition as unpredictable as Liga MX, you won't find very many home fans who will feel confident about its chances against Mena and the rest of Leon's frontline.
Playoff previews this Saturday night
Although the Liga MX playoff round (aka the Liguilla) doesn't start for a little over a month, soccer fans will be able to get a sneak peek this Saturday of what some of this season's postseason battles might look like.
First up in Mexico City is fourth-place Club America vs. second-place Tigres. Following a busy international break that included a 2-2 draw in a friendly against Atlas in Los Angeles, Club America will be returning home to host an opponent Las Aguilas know all too well. Looking back over the past few years, there seems to be a real rivalry building between the two following a couple of high-profile matches. After defeating Tigres in the final of the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League, Club America later stumbled to a 4-0 defeat against the Nuevo Leon club in the semifinal round of the 2017 Apertura playoffs.
With an eye-catching 3-2 scoreline in favor of Club America in their previous regular-season clash late last year, Saturday night's game should prove to be plenty of fun.
Heading north, we also have third-place Monterrey hosting seventh-place Cruz Azul on the same night. While Los Rayados seem to nearly have a place secured in the top eight, Cruz Azul still has plenty to prove after a worrisome start to the year. After finishing as a finalist in the 2018 Apertura, Cruz Azul staggered to three defeats in its first seven games of the current season. Just when it looked like manager Pedro Caixinha was about to be fired, Los Cementeros have bounced back with three consecutive victories against Necaxa, Atlas and Pachuca.
Will Caixinha and his men continue their newfound momentum or will they come back down to earth against a daunting opponent like Monterrey? We'll find out Saturday night.
Club Tijuana eyeing the top four
Is it too early to call Club Tijuana a title dark horse?
There is plenty going right for the team at the moment. New manager Oscar Pareja has revived the once-unmotivated roster, the backline looks comfortable with the ball and the attack is the most underrated in the league. With Fabian Castillo, Ariel Nahuelpan, Gustavo Bou and Miller Bolanos leading the charge, Xolos presents a dangerous mixture of speed and power in the final third.
Most importantly, especially as we hit the final stages of the regular season, Club Tijuana is gaining momentum. In all competitions, Xolos has lost only once in its past 11 games overall. Thanks to this run of form, the club now finds itself fifth in the league table and with a spot in the semis of the Copa MX.
Looking ahead to this weekend, Pareja's men will have a good chance to continue their good pace when they visit Queretaro on Saturday. With only four points and a dismal minus-16 goal differential, Los Gallos Blancos sit dead last in the Liga MX table. Even with the recently hired Victor Manuel Vucetich on the sidelines, it's difficult to assume that Queretaro will pose much of a threat against Tijuana.
Either way, if you want to follow an overlooked team that might eventually cause some trouble to the league's top clubs, look no further than a Xolos side that after this weekend could be in fourth place.