1) Xolos de Tijuana already look Liguilla bound
One of the biggest dilemmas that Miguel Herrera faces in the last five weeks of the regular season is how to manage a team that is virtually already qualified to the Liguilla. On Friday, Xolos de Tijuana stayed perfect at the Estadio Caliente by beating Atlas 1-0. The win put them at 27 points and opened a four point gap at the top of the league table.
After 12 weeks, Xolos de Tijuana have showed that they have the raw materials to build something interesting in the Liguilla. There is a school of thought that Miguel Herrera should keep playing every game now without making many major changes to his starting lineup. It is never too early to start thinking about home-field advantage, and with the likes of Club America, Tigres, and Toluca all remaining in Tijuana’s schedule, Miguel Herrera might have no choice but to do just that. For now, Xolos de Tijuana are rolling, and the question now is will Xolos play their Liguilla games on Saturday or Sunday?
2) Santos’ struggles under Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre continue.
There were a lot of legitimate questions to ask when Santos Laguna decided to part ways with Luis Zubeldia after just five weeks. Tactically speaking, despite not getting results, their performances were generally positive under the former Lanus manager. Even before the tournament kicked off, there was encouraging signs that the board had recognized the lack of attacking spark in the team and had rewarded Zubeldia with several attack-minded signings.
But everything went back to square one when Zubeldia was replaced by former Mexico national team manager Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre. Two straight wins at home showed that there could be some light at the end of the tunnel, but since, the team has failed to pick up another win. Their 1-1 draw against Queretaro almost typified their season, as the Guerreros played a decent game only for Gallos Blancos to equalize through a late penalty.
There is no way around it, Santos Laguna have been a let-down this season. For a team that has been a staple in almost every recent Liguilla, Chepo’s got work to do to return this team where it belongs.
3) Torrente has given Leon a chance.
Leon fans can head into the international break relieved knowing their team has a genuine chance at making the Liguilla. La Fiera made life unnecessarily hard for themselves when they started the season winless in their first five league games and dismissed manger Luis Fernando Tena after just seven weeks.
But now under new manager Javier Torrente, Leon have gone unbeaten in their last five league games, including a 4-3 win over Tigres this weekend to hand them their first defeat of the season. Most importantly, the team is just one point shy of eighth place Necaxa in the race for the Liguilla.
Torrente has brought instant assuredness to his team, and many observers will say he has Leon playing an effective brand of fùtbol. While Luis Fernando Tena was adaptive, Torrente has added another dimensions to Leon’s forward-thinking play, and the dividends have been there for everybody to see. Now, Leon are firmly making a claim they deserve to be in the Liguilla, and with their confidence high, you certainly wouldn’t count them out from making a bigger splash down the line.
4) Club America settle for Monterrey stalemate.
After just three games under Ricardo La Volpe, Club America is far from a complete project, but there are certainly a few unique qualities the Argentine has added to las Aguilas’ game. On Saturday, America and Monterrey played to a 1-1 draw at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer. Silvio Romero had given Club America the lead before a Dorlan Pabon penalty leveled things before the break.
For starters, every player looks to have a purpose, which has enhanced the contribution of their front two strikers. La Volpe has combined a certain directness with his tactical acumen, and rather than depending on their wide players to generate much of the play, as happened often under Ignacio Ambriz, Oribe Peralta and Silvio Romero gradually find themselves shaping the building process up-front. Of course, Las Aguilas still generate plenty of chances from the flank, and Renato Ibarra looked particularly impressive against Los Rayados.
With the international break now in full swing, La Volpe has some extra time to add further details to his side. His next league game is against one of his former students, Miguel Herrera, and a victory over his league-leading Xolos side would be a strong statement from “El Bigoton”.
5) Necaxa’s have gone seven games unbeaten.
Somewhat surprisingly, Necaxa is suddenly one of the in-form teams in Liga MX. Los Rayos have now gone seven games unbeaten and have moved to eighth in the league table after a 3-1 win over Toluca on Saturday. Sure, only three of those seven games are wins, but in the battle for relegation survival, a point is a point. Los Rayos have had a decent-enough season, and as we get to the business end of the campaign, even a Liguilla place doesn’t look impossible for Necaxa.