The 2020 Liga MX Apertura playoffs open on Saturday with the first batch of knockout fixtures to decide who will join Leon, Pumas UNAM, America and Cruz Azul in the quarter-final stage.
Eight teams are poised to compete for four remaining spots in the bracket, and Santos Laguna will get the reclassification up and running at home to Pachuca. Saturday’s late kick-off then sees Chivas Guadalajara host Necaxa in a battle between the seventh and 10th-place table finishers at the Estadio Akron:
Of those four teams, Pachuca (2003) and Chivas (2006) are the only teams to have clinched Apertura titles under its current guise. Santos Laguna (1996) and Necaxa (1998) each won crowns in Liga MX’s first-phase tournament when it went by the ‘Invierno’ prior to reformatting in 2002, as did Pachuca on two occasions (1999, 2001).
Liga MX Playoffs Round 1 Schedule (All Time ET)
Saturday, November 21
Santos Laguna vs. Pachuca, 8 p.m. - FOX Deportes
Chivas Guadalajara vs. Necaxa, 10:10 p.m. - Telemundo
Sunday, November 22
UANL Tigres vs. Toluca, 8 p.m. - TUDN
Monterrey vs. Puebla, 10:10 p.m. - FS1, FOX Deportes
Liga MX Playoffs Tune-In Information
TV: FOX Deportes, TUDN
Live Stream: fuboTV (watch for free)
Five of the last six meetings between Santos and Pachuca have ended in draws, a result that would lead to penalties on Saturday as the single-leg play-in fixtures won’t have extra time.
It was Pachuca who accounted for that sole victory at home just prior to last season’s Clausura being suspended. The pair reconvened at the Estadio Corona on October 19 when two goals just before the interval again saw the teams finish level pegging:
Los Tuzos haven’t won away to Santos Laguna since February 2013, and it will be a worry for the visiting team that their hosts ended the regular season in such fortified form.
Guillermo Almada’s men stormed their way to eighth after winning five of their last seven games and losing only once in that span. By contrast, Pachuca have won only two of their last nine outings, though they’ve also been difficult to beat with only two defeats in the same window.
It’s a similar story for Necaxa, who revived their playoff hopes in the closing weeks of the campaign following a run of five wins on the trot—the best active streak in Liga MX—last losing at home to Puebla on September 19.
More than 20 years after their last league title, Los Rayos are in a position to make the quarter-finals if they can beat Chivas on their own soil, a feat they managed when they last visited Zapopan in August 2019.
Guadalajara have also been hit by the absence of one of their brightest talents in Alexis Vega, who is set to miss the remainder of the campaign even if Chivas advance, via ESPN’s Tom Marshall:
The 2006 Apertura champions hope to recapture former glories under manager Victor Manuel Vucetich, who is in sight of successive wins for the first time since August. The majority of wins in Necaxa’s recent streak have come against teams who missed out on playoff places, but it would be folly for Saturday’s hosts to underestimate one of Liga MX’s in-form outfits.