Who is more likely to win the 2017 Clausura title: Chivas or America?
Fresh off their Copa MX victory, Chivas sit in third place in the Liga MX table on 25 points with three matches left in the regular season. But don't sleep on Club America, which is just one point back (24) in fifth position. As the Liguilla looms ever closer, who is more likely to walk away with the league title? Our experts Tom Marshall, Nayib Moran and Cesar Hernandez have their say and lay out what you can't miss in Week 15 of the 2017 Clausura.
After Wednesday's Copa MX title win it has to be Chivas. The momentum behind the team right now is huge and the bond between fans in Guadalajara and the club is real and significant. The 10-year drought for a title could weigh heavy and the pressure would be huge if Chivas reached a final, although coach Matias Almeyda is a shrewd and highly experienced mind after his time at River Plate and as a player in Europe.
America is set to reach its 11th consecutive Liguilla and is gradually clicking into gear at the right moment of the season. The wily Ricardo La Volpe already got past Almeyda at the quarterfinal stage of the 2016 Apertura, but America certainly hasn't improved since then, whereas Chivas have.
However, both teams have question marks surrounding them. At Chivas, the inability to overcome squads that sit back has been a persistent problem, as has a lack of pace at the back and height in defending set pieces. Those factors could come back to bite the Guadalajara team.
Over at America, injuries have taken their toll, and although there has been a huge buzz around young Diego Lainez, you would not necessarily want to be over-reliant on the 16-year-old in a title run, as exciting as he is for the Mexican game. -- Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup)
What America has going for it is low-scoring draws and wins in recent weeks. Although that isn't the exciting futbol Mexico City fans crave, it's the kind of organized and conservative style that can take teams far in the playoffs.
That said, this appears to be Chivas' tournament to win another league title. The club has thrown away the relegation woes of the past and reappeared as one of Liga MX's strongest and most exciting squads. In the roster, there are plenty of young Mexican names who will be hungry to show off their talents during the Liguilla.
Wednesday night's Copa MX title cannot be overlooked, either. With the trophy in hand right before the start of the playoffs, the motivation and morale is likely at a season high for Chivas. -- Cesar Hernandez (@cesarhfutbol)
As the years go by, Liga MX teams are becoming more concerned with maintaining order at the back, even if it means the spectacle up front is not as eye-catching as it once was. In the end, fans want to see their clubs lift the league title; the forms that help them reach that objective do not get much attention.
Take, for example, Tigres, who are stacked with talent. What makes Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti's team so hard to break down is not its star-studded attack, but rather its organization, which many opponents aspire to develop.
Right now, America under La Volpe is closing in on Tigres' level, while Chivas are still having noticeable hiccups in defense. Dropping a 2-0 lead against Chiapas, for example, was a major red flag that sometimes Chivas lose concentration in key moments. Against Pachuca, it was goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota who stood out due to the multiple saves he pulled off to help Chivas get a scoreless draw.
Since La Volpe's arrival, America's attack has not been as exciting as that of its rivals, but the order, which is so key come Liguilla time, has solidified in the last weeks. It is for this reason that Las Aguilas are closer to 2017 Clausura glory than El Rebano Sagrado. -- Nayib Moran (@nayibmoran)
What you can't miss this weekend
Pressure on Tigres in Clasico Regio
It may be a boring answer, but it has to be Monterrey against Tigres in the Clasico Regio. In all likelihood, Rayados will make the playoffs regardless of the result, but the same cannot be said for Tigres. The pressure is on Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti's team in a game that falls in between the first and second legs of the CONCACAF Champions League final.
Aside from that, this clasico represents the very best of Mexican soccer. The Estadio BBVA Bancomer would be the envy of many European sides, as would the quality that both Monterrey and Tigres possess in their squads. -- Marshall
Leon catching Torrente fever once more
If Leon is able to close out the regular season with three wins, it will finish with 25 points and potentially a Liguilla spot. Los Esmeraldas still have to visit Chivas in Week 16, making this a difficult feat, but ever since Gustavo Matosas' days as head coach the team has made it fashionable to get hot late and enter the playoffs.
This Saturday, Leon hosts Puebla. Manager Javier Torrente will have to put full-back Juan Cornejo and defensive-midfielder Alexander Mejia as center-backs because all of the team's central defenders are out injured or suspended. Not only that, but Elias Hernandez is missing too. Will Leon be able to win and reignite Torrente fever? -- Moran
Liguilla preview when Tijuana hosts Toluca
Considering that the Liguilla is just around the corner, Liga MX fans should keep a close eye on the top-of-the-table battle between Xolos and Toluca.
Looking at Tijuana, there is not only a spot in first place up for grabs, but also the playoffs. If Miguel Herrera's men are able to walk away from Estadio Caliente with three points, Xolos should be able to secure an early position in the Liguilla. And depending on other results this weekend, a draw might just be enough to guarantee a top-eight finish.
As for Toluca, the team should be aiming to make a statement on Friday. In a Clausura competition where there is no dominant club taking charge, Los Diablos Rojos have a golden opportunity to stand out with an impressive performance in Tijuana.
If soccer fans are looking for a Liga MX playoff preview, they should look no further than the first match of Week 15. -- Hernandez
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