Liga MX’s automatic qualifiers take their turn to host when the Apertura quarterfinals conclude this weekend, with everything still to play for as the playoff field is reduced to four.
Puebla produced the biggest headline from the first-leg fixtures as the lowest-seeded left team in the competition stunned top-ranked Leon 2-1. Chivas Guadalajara were the only other home side to triumph in midweek and secured a third straight win by beating America 1-0, giving fans a lot to look forward to when the two giants collide in another Super Clasico on Saturday.
Pachuca’s chances of advancing any further look slim after they finished as the only host who failed to score on their own soil during the first-leg slate. They trail Pumas UNAM 1-0 ahead of the reverse fixture at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario, a venue they haven’t won at since the 2013-14 Clausura quarter-finals.
Arguably no team has a bigger task ahead of them than Tigres, however, following their 3-1 humiliation against Cruz Azul in the first leg, just their second home defeat of 2020. La Machina ended the Apertura campaign with one win in their last six outings, but the two-week break appears to have done Robert Siboldi’s men a world of good just when they needed it most.
Liga MX Quarter-Final First Legs (All Times ET)
Saturday, November 28
Leon vs. Puebla (Aggregate 1-2), 8 p.m. - TUDN, Univision
America vs. Chivas Guadalajara (Agg. 0-1), 10 p.m. - TUDN, Univision
Sunday, November 29
Pumas UNAM vs. Pachuca (Agg. 1-0), 1 p.m. - TUDN
Cruz Azul vs. UANL Tigres (Agg. 3-1), 7:30 p.m. - TUDN
Liga MX Playoffs Tune-In Information
TV: TUDN, Univision
Live Stream: fuboTV (watch for free)
At least one early surprise was perhaps to be expected in the Apertura knockout phases given the 2020 we’ve had so far, but few may have banked on that arising in Leon’s visit to lowly Puebla. Los Panzas Verdes finished the league campaign eight points clear of any competition and with double the points tally of 12th-place Puebla. But 18 days of rest might have in fact been too much for Leon as Omar Fernandez put the underdogs up with less than a minute on the clock:
Angel Mena—once again a standout performer for Ignacio Ambriz’s side this year—pulled one back for Leon after Andres Mosquera’s own goal doubled the deficit, but a lot more will be demanded of the hosts come Saturday.
Despite only just booking their place in the playoffs, Puebla have now defeated Leon in three of their past five encounters, which includes a 4-0 showcase at the Estadio Leon in October 2018.
Cesar Hernandez chronicled Los Camoteros’ escalating habit for upsets this Apertura, the question being how long they can keep surprising peers growing increasingly wary of their threat:
Saturday’s other much-anticipated showdown sees Mexico’s two most decorated clubs face off with more than just bragging rights at stake.
Cristian Calderon’s screamer (see above, for your own good) separated the two teams after a frantic first leg in Zapopan, but Las Aguilas have come out on top the last three times these teams have met at the Estadio Azteca. Chivas have travelled to America seven times in a row without success, having last beaten this opponent away from home in August 2016.
Victor Manuel Vucetich has been buoyed by the news Alexis Vegas will be fit to make his bench, per ESPN’s Tom Marshall, who gave Saturday’s visitors the clear advantage against Miguel Herrera’s side:
While Puebla pulled off the unlikeliest of upsets over Leon, Pachuca’s opening clash with Pumas went more to script in a 1-0 home loss that leaves them little chance of reaching their first Apertura semi-finals since 2006.
Paulo Pezzolano—the youngest manager in Liga MX at 37—accomplished a major feat just by guiding Pachuca back to the playoffs. However, Pumas’ run of 11 games unbeaten at home puts the ball firmly in their court after Fabio Alvarez notched a 1-0 decider in the first instalment.
The last leg of the quarterfinals will by no means draw the least attention, with Cruz Azul seeking to finish off the job against a Tigres team that failed to bear its teeth in their midweek matchup:
Siboldi’s attacking gems were each at their best as Jonathan Rodriguez, Roberto Alvarado and Orbelin Pineda each had a direct involvement in front of goal, following Chivas as only the second side to beat Tigres on their own turf this term.
Cruz Azul looked re-energized after a sluggish end to the regular season saw them scrape fourth place on goal difference. Rodriguez resumed his push for the top-scorer prize following his 13th strike of the season.
Tigres will have pulled off a comeback for the ages if they can somehow advance to the semifinals, though two wins from their last seven road games doesn’t paint a pretty picture of their chances.