Alas, we finally have the first two teams officially qualified to the Liguilla, and perhaps not surprisingly, it’s these same two teams, Cruz Azul and Club América, that remain at the very top of the odds lists to win the 2018 Liga MX Apertura.
In light of Cruz Azul’s 2-1 win over Pumas UNAM, La Máquina made their triumphant return to the top of the league table. Make no mistake about it, Cruz Azul has been the best team in Liga MX across the first 15 weeks, and although the oddsmakers might not agree with it, given that Club América remains their No. 1 choice in their favorites list, it’s hard to imagine a team more equipped to win the Liga MX title than the Cementeros.
They are proven Sportsbooks. In fact, early last week they put a checkmark on their first big objective by winning the Copa MX title. Over the next month, we are going to learn if that was just a fluke or if the Cementeros are the real deal. But right now, if you are a Cruz Azul fan or backer, you have to be feeling really good about this team’s chances of securing its first Liga MX title in more than 20 years.
It would be foolish to ignore Tigres
Tigres are notoriously slow starters, but by their standards, this 2018 Liga MX Apertura has been far from brilliant. Last Friday, Tigres backers received some good news as Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti’s men earned an important 2-0 win over Monarcas Morelia to place themselves virtually just one win away from earning a spot in the Liguilla.
A Liguilla place looks like a foregone conclusion for the Universitarios, but the big question is how good is this Tigres team? It’s easy to make a big deal of Tigres’ predictable stumbles, but it’s also true that this team has looked old at times and in severe need of a renovation. Oddsmakers currently have Tigres as third favorite to win the Liga MX title, and one wonders if this is the last real chance for this generation of Tigres players to win a league title. With captain Juninho eyeing retirement and star striker Andre-Pierre Gignac (32 years old) not getting any younger, it is looking increasingly like Tigres’ golden era is soon going to be on borrowed time.
That said, Tigres are never a bad bet. There is a reason this group of players has won three league titles across the last three Liga MX seasons. You could do worse than a team that boasts of individual talent like Gignac, Eduardo Vargas, Enner Valencia and Javier Aquino.
Pachuca deserves respect
Pachuca looks to have finally won some respect from the oddsmakers after thumping Necaxa 6-2 over the weekend. Los Tuzos have been proving some good value for some time now, and though a playoff spot is by no means a guarantee as we approach the last two weeks of the regular season, they are currently in a top-eight position and looking promising.
What makes Pachuca such an interesting side to follow is that their style of play could make them a tricky side in a potential Liguilla. Few teams in Liga MX have a style down like Pachuca, and aside from maybe Pedro Caixinha at Cruz Azul, nobody is more meticulous with their tactics than Tuzos manager Pako Ayestaran. The team’s high pressing has caused all sorts of problems for opposing teams, and they even beat Cruz Azul 3-1 during the regular season.
At the moment, the oddsmakers still have seven other teams above Los Tuzos. You already know about Cruz Azul, Club América, Tigres and Monterrey; if you want to take something of a real gamble, there is plenty of space available on the Pachuca train.
As we approach the business end of the season, Club América remains the favorite to win the 2018 Liga MX Apertura, with Cruz Azul, Monterrey and Santos Laguna closing out the top four.
On Saturday, the two favorites to win the Liga MX title faced off at the Estadio Azteca in a game that ended scoreless after 90 minutes. Cruz Azul was by far the better team, but Club América was able to weather the storm to remain atop the odds lists.
Everything remains largely the same with both teams, and while Club América’s individual talent has given the team a good shout as to why they should be the favorite, you have to like Cruz Azul’s chances. La Máquina’s strongest suit remains their defense, as the team ranks No. 1 in Liga MX with just 11 goals conceded. Their veteran center back partnership of Pablo Aguilar and Julio Cesar Dominguez has been monumental all season and looked particularly imposing against Las Águilas.
Looking ahead, however, it wouldn’t be surprising to see both of these teams square off again in the Liguilla. They have been among the most reliable in this Apertura, in a season that has been marked by inconsistencies all across the board.
Monterrey on the mend
In a space of a few weeks, Monterrey has seen its odds plunge from absolute favorites to win the Liga MX title to third on the list behind both Club América and Cruz Azul. A 1-0 defeat to Santos Laguna was the team’s second loss in three games, and Monterrey has now won just twice in its last eight Liga MX games.
Considering Monterrey is currently sixth in the league table and struggling against good teams, the oddsmakers are being quite kind with the Rayados. Part of the reason could be that Monterrey is in the process of getting healthy, after losing nearly half of its starting lineup due to injury.
Monterrey has also shown to be a good team when it comes to playing knockout phase-like games. Along with the aforementioned Cruz Azul, Monterrey is in the Copa MX final and has demonstrated true grit throughout the tournament. Coach Diego Alonso has been able to maneuver through his team’s numerous absences and seems to always have a clear game plan in these types of games. Let’s not forget that this is a manager who already knows what it takes to win the Liga MX title, having hoisted the trophy with Pachuca back in 2016.
Let’s not ignore Pumas
Perhaps no other team has created more uncertainty this season than Pumas UNAM. Let’s get something out of the way first. Stylistically, Pumas has not been a good team. At one point this season, it was so bad that fans were starting to ask for the coach’s head. But with only three games left in the regular season, Pumas has gone unbeaten in its last eight Liga MX games and is currently fourth in the table with 26 points, just two points shy of league leaders Club América.
Pumas also has the second-best offense in the league with 26 goals scored and is the best visiting team in this Apertura with a record of five wins, two draws and one defeat. In fact, coach David Patiño has won more away games in one season than his predecessor did in all of his stint with Pumas.
So little has been the backing for Pumas that oddsmakers still have six teams ahead of the Universitarios as favorites to win the Liga MX title. Perhaps it is time to change that? Pumas has proved us wrong over and over again this season and, with value like that, is very hard to ignore as we approach the start of the Liguilla.
With only four games to go in the regular season, we have a new team at the top of the league table, and perhaps a new favorite?
After expectedly thumping Xolos de Tijuana at the Estadio Azteca, Club América overtook Cruz Azul at the top of the league table with 27 points and remains a legitimate contender to win it all.
I’ve largely advised of the risk of going all-in with Las Águilas, and while they’ve certainly been trending up in recent weeks, they’ve been as inconsistent as it comes. At best, Club América has looked like a semifinal team, a tendency of Las Águilas ever since Miguel Herrera took over the team.
Club América does have a huge match coming up against Cruz Azul over the weekend, and the Sportsbook will most likely finish the regular season in first place. America’s odds of winning the 2018 Liga MX Apertura would drastically improve if they end up winning that game, and part of the reason is they’ve been impossible to beat at the Estadio Azteca. Finishing the regular season in first place means you get to host each one of your Liguilla playoff return legs at home, and that’s something América craves ahead of a possible run to the title.
Cruz Azul still provides best value going forward
When Club América and Cruz Azul do, in fact, face each other on Saturday, it’s looking increasingly likely that it will be Cruz Azul that starts the game as the favorite. If you follow Liga MX on a weekly basis, that shouldn’t come as a surprise to you at all. Cruz Azul has been on cruise control during the last few weeks, and although the team has taken some stumbles like it did this past weekend against Pachuca, this has only increased their value.
Cruz Azul is arguably the team best positioned to go all the way, and the only reason it has lost a few games is because coach Pedro Caixinha has rotated his squad heavily in recent weeks. La Máquina are still alive in Copa MX, and they are not hiding the fact that they want to win that tournament too, where they are currently in the semifinals. If anything, Cruz Azul’s ability to do so well in the first two knockout phase rounds of the Copa MX is proof that this Cementeros team is ready to make a deep run in the Liga MX playoffs and end its 20-year-old drought without a league title.
Is Chivas out of the title picture?
Chivas Guadalajara was dealt a heavy blow in their Liguilla playoff aspirations as they were handed a 1-1 draw against struggling Lobos BUAP on Sunday. On paper, this was a match that was supposed to be a piece of cake for the Rojiblancos, but as has been the case all season for Chivas, they were unable to finish off their chances before settling for an unwanted result.
At one point this season, Chivas went on a run of five straight victories that had fans and bettors believing this team might have a shot at actually winning the title. But now, things are looking increasingly dire for the Guadalajara outfit, though definitely not impossible. In theory, Chivas needs 25 points to get to the Liguilla, which is nine more points than they currently have. If you do the math, that means Chivas needs to win three of its remaining four games to make the Liguilla.
With games against Monarcas Morelia, Puebla, Club León and Tigres UANL still to play, Chivas’ schedule can best be described as brutal, considering all four of those teams are direct rivals with the Rojiblancos for the final two Liguilla spots. In essence, the last four games of the season will truly show what this team is made of.
It all comes down to the last five games of the regular season. While teams like Cruz Azul and Club América are primed to stay atop the list of favorites to win the 2018 Liga MX Apertura, other teams like defending champions Santos Laguna and Pachuca could make a surprise or two come Liguilla playoff time.
Let’s start with the league’s top four
Let’s start with the teams that look most likely to clinch a place in the playoffs. As a general rule of thumb, 25 points has always been enough to seal a place in the Liguilla, and currently, only one team has reached the 25-point mark, league leaders Cruz Azul. In essence, Cruz Azul has already virtually earned a place in the Liguilla, and unsurprisingly remains as the top pick to win it all in Liga MX.
But there are other teams close to reaching the 25-point mark. Club América and Santos Laguna both have 24 points, which basically means a draw is all they need to go through. Las Águilas have looked inconsistent across the first 12 weeks, but by name alone, they always seem to provide good value come late November. Meanwhile, the defending champions will likely arrive under the radar again, but with a familiarity of knowing exactly what it takes to lift the title.
The other two teams that will inevitably qualify to the Liguilla are Toluca and Pumas UNAM. Both find themselves three points away from reaching the 25-point mark, with the Diablos Rojos looking the stronger of the two teams. Pumas UNAM has shown glimpses but ultimately hasn’t looked like a team experienced enough to make a deep run.
Can the Nuevo León teams be considered real contenders?
Hanging around in sixth and seventh are both of the Nuevo León teams. At one point this season, Monterrey was the absolute favorite to win the Liga MX title, but injuries have derailed what looked to be a promising regular-season campaign. As of today, Rayados need just two more wins to reach the 25-point mark, but their schedule doesn’t appear to be that straightforward. Diego Alonso’s men still have games remaining against Toluca, Pachuca, Santos and a tough away game to Necaxa in their very last game of the season.
Tigres UANL is in a similar boat. Mathematically speaking, the Felinos can only afford to lose two of their remaining five games. Losing three would put their season in serious jeopardy. The good news, though, for Tigres backers is that their forthcoming schedule is a lot more forgiving than that of their rivals. Moreover, Tigres have a tendency to pick things up late in the season, always peaking when it matters most.
And then there is the rest
It’s after Monterrey and Tigres where things start to get a bit complicated in the league table. There is a three-way tie for eighth place, and three other teams below that can realistically finish in Liguilla playoff positions. Querétaro is currently eighth, but has never been able to win a league title in its history. Likewise, Monarcas Morelia doesn’t seem to carry as much momentum as years past, and hasn’t won a league title since 2000. The same can be said about Puebla, which frankly is only in the discussion because of its respectable record at home.
By style alone, tactical teams tend to enjoy a greater success in the latter part of the season, and that’s where Xolos de Tijuana usually comes in. However, while Tijuana may be a good bet to make the Liguilla, it usually takes more than Mourinhoesque tactics to win the league title.
This leaves two teams remaining, Pachuca and Chivas Guadalajara. I’ve been saying it all along, Pachuca provides some of the best value available. The Tuzos have one of the best coaches in the league in Pako Ayestaran, and when they play well, they play great. The magic number for them is three wins, and with games against lowly Atlas and Veracruz still to play, the task doesn’t seem entirely out of the question.
On the other hand, there is Chivas. The Rebaño isn’t exactly playing teams out of the park, but you get the feeling that if they manage to build just the right amount of momentum, they can cause real damage in the playoffs. There is also the fact that coach Jose Saturnino Cardozo has a really good record of taking teams to at least the semifinals of the Liguilla.
Ahead of the international break, we look at all the major changes in the list of favorites to win the 2018 Liga MX Clausura title. The Mexico City teams keep getting the job done, while Chivas’s odds to win the league title keep taking a tumble.
This past weekend had no shortage of big games. None was bigger than the two games between the Mexico City sides and Monterrey sides on Saturday night. It all started with league leader Cruz Azul taking on Rayados at the Estadio Azteca. Cruz Azul has taken a few stumbles during the last few weeks, but its championship chances have more or less been kept unchanged. The Cementeros still hold a sizable edge over the rest of the teams in the league, and following their victory over Rayados, they are virtually guaranteed a place in the Liguilla.
Monterrey, on the other hand, still finds itself struggling in the top half of the table. Diego Alonso’s men have just one win in their last six Liga MX matches. The good news for Monterrey backers is that Diego Alonso is no stranger to these types of negative streaks. This was actually a common occurrence during his time at Pachuca, and if you think Monterrey has a genuine opportunity to win the title once the team gets healthy, this is perhaps the best time to put your money on the Rayados.
Mexico City and Monterrey head-to-head Part II
The other big Mexico City/Monterrey clash of the weekend happened in San Nicolas de los Garza, as Tigres UANL played host to Club América, eventually losing 3-2 in front of their own crowd.
Tigres’s odds of winning the Liga MX title have taken a dip in recent weeks, and they have a lot of us wondering if they will even make the Liguilla playoffs. Currently, the Felinos are sitting seventh in the league table and facing pressure from mid-table teams like Xolos de Tijuana, Monarcas Morelia and Pachuca. Defense has been a concern for coach Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti, and that was the case again in this game. In particular, the set-piece defending was atrocious, conceding off of three corner kicks. Certainly, if Tigres plan on being taken seriously among their fans and the oddsmakers, their aging defense will need to show a little more solidarity ahead of the business end of the season.
Meanwhile, as surprising as this victory was for América, it was business as usual in terms of their play. América continues to look like a subpar team that almost magically always finds a way to win games. If you somehow think that will translate to wins in the Liguilla, then the door is always open for a bet on the Mexican giants.
Chivas’s stock keeps falling
Speaking of surprising wins, Pumas UNAM obtained its first victory over Chivas in Guadalajara in 36 years, earning a 2-1 win at the Estadio Akron. Chivas’s odds to win the Liga MX title keep going south, and their latest defeat put them further down in the league table. To put things into perspective, a lot has changed in two weeks for the Rebaño Sagrado. Sitting in 12th place in the standings with 15 points, Chivas will need to go through four of its next five games unbeaten, given that 25 points is usually the number of points necessary to at least make eighth place in the league table.
In contrast, Pumas UNAM resembles its crosstown rival Club América. Like las Águilas, Pumas are playing a brand of fútbol that leaves plenty to be desired but have consistently found ways to win games. If the World Cup is anything to go by, you don’t need to play well to lift the trophy, and if that is your mantra, then Pumas is a team difficult to ignore.
Cruz Azul’s value took a stumble, while defending champion Santos Laguna is back in the frame again after another victory. Eleven weeks into the Liga MX season, and the odds to win the 2018 Liga MX Apertura are on the move.
In light of a disappointing Clásico Regiomontano, lots was expected from this Clásico Nacional. Depending on who you talk to, though, it was either a little underwhelming or it just about exceeded expectations, as the game ended in a 1-1 draw thanks to a last-minute penalty save.
The fact of the matter is it did very little to either team’s value. Club América remains second in the league table and a genuine contender for the title, but there is no denying that a win on Sunday could have caused a real shift in the odds list. Meanwhile, Chivas still find itself on the outer edges of the Liguilla, and an underdog win at the Estadio Azteca would have made oddsmakers take the Rebaño Sagrado a bit more seriously heading into the business end of the season.
At this point of the campaign, both Club América and Chivas Guadalajara carry some inflated value because of their popularity. If you believe that makes some sort of difference come Liguilla time, then don’t be afraid to wager on either team. But in terms of performance, neither team has shown enough to be considered a Liga MX championship-contending team.
Can Santos Laguna make it back-to-back titles?
Only two teams have ever won back-to-back titles in Liga MX’s modern era – Pumas UNAM and, most recently, Club León. Just a few weeks ago, the thought of that happening again this season seemed impossible. Santos Laguna was suffering from a broken locker room, and a physical altercation between the manager and one of his players left the team without its head coach.
Instead of suffering a total collapse, however, Santos has been one of the most consistent teams all season. The defending champions got a tricky win at Necaxa last weekend and have just one defeat in their last eight Liga MX games. In fact, this regular-season campaign is shaping up to be a lot better than the last. The Guerreros are currently third in the league table, when last season they won the league title after finishing eighth. Santos Laguna’s chances to go all the way will likely depend on who they face in the playoffs, but when you consider that they took down both Monterrey and Club América in last season’s championship run, that is rapidly becoming less and less of a worry. If you think Julio Furch and company can do it again, the time to bet is probably now, especially if they go on to get positive results against Pachuca, Monterrey, Club América and Pumas UNAM in their remaining games.
Cruz Azul requires some patience, but Pachuca remains a good bet
Hate to say I told you so. Cruz Azul suffered its second defeat of the season as they were thumped 3-1 by Pachuca. My gut feeling is that this won’t be the last defeat Cruz Azul suffers this season. The Cementeros have a tough schedule ahead, and coach Pedro Caixinha has made it clear he is willing to rotate his squad if it means keeping the dream of the “double” alive. Caixinha rested several players against Pachuca, and another defeat or two would do wonders for Cruz Azul’s value for bettors who are looking to go all-in on La Màquina.
Pachuca, on the other hand, has been no slouch. I’ve said it before: if there is a team capable enough of surprising everybody, it is Pachuca. Their high-pressing game overwhelmed a Cruz Azul side that is arguably the best team in all of Mexico, and if they get hot near the end of the season, this is a team you want to bet on.
Ten weeks into the Liga MX season, Cruz Azul continues to separate itself from the rest of the teams at the top of the odds list, while Club América is surging despite a negative performance in Puebla.
If it wasn’t clear last week, it is a lot clearer this week. Cruz Azul’s defeat to Necaxa was a minor setback and it is becoming more and more evident the Cementeros are here for the long run. They once again looked convincing, defeating Atlas 2-0 at the Estadio Azteca to open a three-point gap at the top of the league table.
When it comes to placing a wager on Cruz Azul, you are either convinced they will take it or you are not. With Cruz Azul needing virtually one more win to clinch a place in the playoffs, the only point of waiting to bet on them is if you hope they falter a few more times and their value goes down. With games against Xolos de Tijuana, Pachuca, Club América and Pumas UNAM still remaining, that is entirely possible. That said, I don’t blame you if you take that route, but right now it is looking like nothing will stop the Cementeros from achieving their goal.
Club América finds ways to get the job done
Club América is Club América. The thing about the Liga MX giants is that they could be playing some of the worst football in the league and still manage to win games. It happened on Friday when a 10-man Águilas team took all three points from their visit to Puebla thanks to a last-minute goal from Bruno Valdez.
In truth, Miguel Herrera’s men have been struggling for some time now, but if you look at the league table, América is second with 20 points and looking like a genuine contender for the title. In that regard, you either believe all of América’s problems will eventually catch up to them or there is something really special being brewed up behind the scenes and they can win the league title.
As far as my assessment goes, Club América looks like a semifinal team. However, as history has shown time and time again, the playoffs are a crapshoot. They are unpredictable and it would be foolish for bettors to ignore las Águilas. After all, they have 12 league titles to their name. Surely, you can do worse than that.
Clásico of disappointment
It is arguable that the growth of football in the northern part of the country has created a power shift in Liga MX. That's why when it comes to the Clasico Regiomontano and the way we cover Tigres UANL and Rayados, we treat these teams as some of the best Liga MX has to offer. But last week’s Clasico Regiomontano was a snoozefest and probably left more negative vibes than good ones. Apart from the pre-match violence that marred the game before the kickoff, the game itself failed to live up to expectations. The game ended scoreless after 90 minutes and neither team made a case for why it should be considered a favorite for the league title.
Stats don’t lie, and Rayados and Tigres currently sit sixth and seventh in the league table, respectively. Personally, things just don’t feel right when it comes to the Monterrey teams right now, and if you are on the Regio train from the last few seasons, this is perhaps the best betting value you’ll get.
Of course, neither team is a stranger to downfalls. It just feels like at the moment they are falling short of their immediate objectives. At the end, it is not a good sign when two teams that were pre-tournament favorites are finding themselves fighting to just get to the playoffs.
Undefeated no more. After 10 weeks, Cruz Azul suffered its first defeat of the season and now seems to have some competition at the top of the odds lists, with Pumas UNAM and Club América hot on the La Máquina’s tail.
On Saturday, Cruz Azul lost its status as the only undefeated team left in the tournament with a 2-0 defeat to Necaxa.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. Cruz Azul was bound to lose eventually. Going nine games without a defeat is impressive enough, and this should be treated as a minor setback. In fact, as a point of reference, 25 points has always been enough to earn a place in the Liguilla, which means Cruz Azul is just five points away from virtually sealing a place in the Liga MX playoffs.
Perhaps the biggest fear for Cruz Azul bettors is the question of whether this team will perform in the same manner come Liguilla time. Considering the general inconsistencies being shown across the map, I think Cruz Azul remains your best bet at winning the league title. As the saying goes, defense wins championships. Against Necaxa, it was the first time all season they conceded more than one goal.
A defeat that has allowed others to dream
If nothing Cruz Azul does can convince you that they are prime contenders for the title, there are a couple of teams behind them that are starting to dream. One of those teams is Pumas UNAM, which thumped Lobos BUAP 4-2 and moved all the way up to second in the league table. There is also third-place Club America, which frankly may have the best value considering they are still in the process of getting their team healthy. Defending champion Santos Laguna is also in the discussion after Julio Furch’s double powered the “Guerreros” to a 3-0 win over Club León. Finally, there is Deportivo Toluca. The Diablos Rojos are contenders again after winning their second straight game of the season, and as long as they remain in playoff positioning, you can count on them to remain among the top 10 in the odds lists.
Monterrey vs Chivas made the biggest difference
Perhaps no other game had a greater effect on the standings than Monterrey vs Chivas Guadalajara on Saturday night. Prior to the match, Monterrey had been arguably the second-best team in Liga MX after Cruz Azul. Now, it may be time to start re-evaluating Monterrey’s chances after they lost 4-2 at home to the Rebaño Sagrado.
One of those reasons is their defense. Monterrey’s defense has left a lot to be desired late into games, and it was on display in the second half against Chivas. Diego Alonso’s men conceded three times in the last 22 minutes of the game to squander a 2-1 lead. This was their second straight defeat of the season and it was enough to move them down from second all the way to sixth in the league table. On pure potential alone, Monterrey’s offense remains one of the best in Liga MX, but if their defense doesn’t find a way to stop giving up goals late, we can start forgetting about Monterrey as future Liga MX champions.
Meanwhile, Chivas’ win has caused oddsmakers to take the Guadalajara outfit a bit more seriously. The Rojiblancos are now ninth in the league table and just three points away from fifth-place Toluca. If you think Chivas has what it takes to build from this sudden streak of four wins in five matches, this is probably the time to go all-in on the Rojiblancos. That’s assuming that they go on to win a few more games and establish themselves in a top-eight position.
Find the latest odds at Sportsbook.
We are officially in the second half of the regular season in Liga MX. Outside of Cruz Azul, which remains at the top of the league table, we are sure to see a lot of movement in the coming weeks when it comes to contenders for the Liga MX title.
It doesn’t come as a surprise anymore. Cruz Azul is locked in at the top of the league table, and we don’t blame you if you go all-in on the Cementeros. Barring a collapse of colossal proportions, Cruz Azul will be in the Liguilla come late November.
Cruz Azul’s odds may change a bit in the future, especially if/when they go on to lose their status as the only unbeaten team left in the tournament, but the general consensus is that this team can go all the way. Under Pedro Caixinha, the team is harvesting a winning culture, and tactically they seem far and wide better than anybody else.
There is always the danger that they may be peaking a little too fast, something that occurred not too long ago with Xolos de Tijuana. However, this is a vastly more talented side than that Club Tijuana team, and the only real danger they face in the foreseeable future is if they go on to face a team in the playoffs with more momentum.
Tigres look like the best bet among a crowded field
The current state of the Liga MX table is something of a mess, as only four points separate third from 13th. To even win the Liga MX title you first have to get to the Liguilla, which means you have to finish the regular season among the top eight. One particular team bouncing in and out of the top eight is Tigres UANL. The Universitarios have been a perennial candidate for the title in recent seasons and have made a habit of winning championships every 12 months. That’s why if you ask me, seventh-place Tigres probably have the best value right now.
Currently, Tigres manager Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti is serving as interim manager for the Mexico national team, and there are strong rumors that suggest he is more than willing to take over on a permanent basis. Obviously, this would mean trouble for Tigres, but chances are that the Mexican Federation would be more than willing to let Ferretti complete the season with the Felinos. In that respect, what more motivation would Tigres need? Ferretti is arguably the most successful coach in Tigres history and to send him off with another league title would simply be perfect.
There is also Monterrey and Club América
Elsewhere, the only other two teams that immediately jump out are Monterrey and Club América. The Rayados have been a steady second all season, although they did lose their last game against Puebla and suffered an injury to key player Rodolfo Pizarro. With that in mind, Monterrey should be back at its very best right before the Liguilla. Pizarro is set to miss just a month of action, while starting striker Rogelio Funes-Mori will return from injury as soon as this weekend.
On the other hand, Club América is a team that requires a bit more caution. Along with the aforementioned Tigres, las Águilas have arguably one of the toughest schedules remaining in Liga MX. The second half of the season will either make or break América. Among the remaining games left in las Águilas’s calendar are games against rivals Chivas, Tigres, Cruz Azul, Toluca and defending champions Santos Laguna. Club América is basically a risky bet right now. Either they pay off nicely or they end up falling short like they have in the last seven Liga MX seasons.
The international break is upon us and, as ever, it is turning out to be an unpredictable season in Liga MX. But while the fight at the top half of the league table is heating up, the board for which team will win the Liga MX title continues relatively unchanged at the top, with Cruz Azul and Monterrey still leading the way.
On the heels of another victory, Cruz Azul is starting to break away at the top of the league table. Despite some erroneous refereeing, the Cementeros took care of business against Veracruz to earn their sixth win of the season and remain undefeated in the Apertura.
The fact of the matter is Cruz Azul continues to prove it is a legitimate contender to the title. The Cementeros’ vastly improved defense has been all the difference and at the same time the attacking reinforcements of Elias Hernandez and Roberto Alvarado have been some of the brightest.
Don’t expect the international break to slow down Cruz Azul either. They only have three players out on international duty and their first two games back are against Necaxa and lowly Atlas. At this rate, Cruz Azul will be in the Liguilla by next month, giving the team plenty of time to prepare for an eventual playoff run to the title.
Uncertainty in Mexico City
It’s anybody’s guess if the other two Mexico City teams will do actual damage come Liguilla time. Both Pumas UNAM and Club América are puzzling teams in that they seem sometimes promising and sometimes vulnerable.
On the one hand, after a disastrous performance against Club América a pair of weeks ago, Pumas UNAM bounced back with a 2-1 win over Club León. While the Universitarios did struggle to close out the game, their attackers turned in a solid performance, the kind that almost convinces you that they can do something more than a quarterfinal appearance. The problem is Pumas has a track record of underperforming, and the safest thing to do now would be to wait a few more games to see if they will actually keep this up.
For their part, Club América are back to third in the league table after taking down Lobos BUAP. It was las Águilas’s first win in four league games, but it came against one of the worst teams in the league. The issue with América is we don’t know what their competitive window is like. Is this a team that will crash out in the Liguilla again or do they have what it takes to be Liga MX champion? They got the result against Lobos BUAP, but you could argue that they struggled, even being outplayed at times. This isn’t a good look for Miguel Herrera’s men, and as is the case with their rivals Pumas, the best thing to do may be to wait.
Bet on the surprise
The most frustrating thing about Liga MX can be its unpredictability. That said, this means that just about any team can win the Liga MX title. Last season, nobody expected Santos Laguna to be the one to lift the trophy after five months, and with only four points separating third place from 14th, you have to think there is a possibility of something similar happening again this season.
In particular, Querétaro is one team that has caught the attention of many after winning three straight. Any probability of them winning the title, however, seems slim when you consider that the Gallos Blancos have never won a Liga MX title before.
The one team you should be keeping an eye out for is Pachuca. Following a shaky start during which they lost their first three league games, they have now gone five straight games without a defeat. The team is long overdue for a title, and in Pako Ayestaran, they have a manager who knows a thing or two about tactics, something that tends to come in handy late in the competition.
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Cruz Azul keeps holding firm at the top of the Liga MX table, while Chivas Guadalajara suddenly finds itself back in the mix after a near-perfect week.
Cruz Azul has not won a Liga MX title since 1997, but after seven weeks, this is a team everybody needs to seriously consider as a genuine contender for the title. Cruz Azul’s recent track record of folding when it really matters will probably dissuade a lot of people, but it’s difficult not to feel confident about this team right now. In addition to being atop the league table, Cruz Azul is the only unbeaten team left in the competition. Their strength continues to be their defense, and they currently hold the best defensive record in the league, having conceded just twice in seven games. Mentally, the team looks more prepared than ever. They’ve so far passed tests against Xolos de Tijuana, Toluca and defending champions Santos Laguna.
If you are on the fence about the Cementeros, consider that they are virtually eight points away from earning a place in the playoffs (on average, 25 points has always been enough to clinch a top-eight finish) and we are still 10 weeks away from the start of the Liguilla. Even if things do get tough for Cruz Azul in the latter part of the regular season, they are giving themselves plenty of room for mistakes ahead of a potential run to the final. That’s what makes the playoff format so forgiving, especially in Liga MX.
Why bet against Monterrey?
Monterrey continues to provide the safest option for bettors as we approach the midway point of the regular season. The Rayados remain just one point behind league leaders Cruz Azul, and while their play continues to look disjointed at times, especially late in games, they always seem to have just the right amount of talent to pull through. In fact, what makes Monterrey such an enticing option is exactly that: they have arguably the most talented squad in all of Liga MX. In particular, after adding Rodolfo Pizarro to the offense, coach Diego Alonso has little to complain about when it comes to his attacking options.
Moreover, what should make Monterrey bettors even more excited is that the team is currently in second place without having starting striker Rogelio Funes Mori available due to injury. With the six-foot-one striker set to return soon, this might be the best value you can get on the Rayados, as they are sure to receive a goalscoring boost with Funes Mori back in the starting lineup.
Goats on the rise
One of the surprises during the last week of play in Liga MX was the sudden rise of Chivas Guadalajara. The Rojiblancos capped off a perfect week in which they won all three of their games, including a Clásico Tapatio victory over rivals Atlas.
It sounds foolish to get excited over a week’s worth of performances, but in a season where just about every team looks capable of making the playoffs, nothing seems impossible. Of course, there are always going to be more realistic options on the board like Club América, Tigres UANL, Deportivo Toluca and Santos Laguna, but you can do a lot worse than the most popular team in Mexico.
An argument against Chivas is that they just went through one of the easiest parts of their schedule. That’s probably true, but this is a team that lost its manager and best player during the offseason and has been hampered by injuries early in the season. Winning the Liga MX title would be a tremendous accomplishment but one that isn’t out of the realm of possibility for this club. They accomplished something eerily similar in 2017 and they won the CONCACAF Champions League this past April. Go ahead and take a gamble on the Goats if you dare.
This last weekend was one full of surprises in Liga MX, as Mexico City’s top three teams continue to reign supreme at the top of the league table.
Yes, Pumas UNAM continues to be at the top of the league table after just four weeks, but they started to finally show some signs of worry against Pachuca. Despite their early status as league leaders, the Universitarios continue to be a hard team to sell in this Apertura, given their propensity to die down midway through the season. The fact that they went scoreless against a Pachuca team that came from conceding three goals vs Club América doesn’t help their cause, especially when their biggest worry coming into this new season was their offense.
Again, it can be easy to jump on the Pumas UNAM train, but we’d like to see a bit more consistency from the Universitarios before going all-in. With games against Monterrey and Club América coming up, things are going to get a lot more interesting. If Pumas manage to get through the next two weeks unscathed, then maybe it is time to start changing our minds on the Universitarios.
Cruz Azul keeps showing all the right things
Like with Pumas UNAM, Cruz Azul is the only other team that remains unbeaten in this 2018 Liga MX Apertura, but as opposed to the Universitarios, you get the feeling that with every coming week the Cementeros are brewing something special here. It’s almost like this seems like the tournament in which Cruz Azul puts all its demons behind and makes history.
Look, if you are all aboard the Cruz Azul bandwagon, we don’t blame you. Tactically they’ve been arguably the best team in this tournament, and coach Pedro Caixinha is receiving praise from just about every corner of Mexico. The biggest question for Cruz Azul going into the new season was if they could handle the pressure mentally, something they’ve struggled with across the last few years. The fact that they managed to come out of their visit to the Estadio Sportsbook with a point despite going down to 10 men early in the game tells you everything you need to know about Cruz Azul’s mindset. They showed resilience, the kind that gets you excited after just four weeks.
Teams in Monterrey take a hit
For all intents and purposes, it was a nightmarish week for both teams from Monterrey. For starters, Tigres suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of Toluca. This was a Tigres team that had not lost a home game in 29 straight league matches. Toluca are no slouch, but they were missing their two best players, which makes this result even more surprising.
You can expect Tigres to bounce back, as these sorts of results are forgiving in Liga MX, but the Felinos have done no favors to their stock in recent weeks. That said, bettors shouldn’t be too worried. Tigres don’t tend to show their true claws until very late into the season.
The other team from Monterrey also suffered a defeat this week, with Rayados being comfortably beaten 3-0 by Club América. Beyond the fact that las Águilas are looking more and more like the team to beat in this Apertura, you shouldn’t look too much into the final result. The 3-0 scoreline was purely circumstantial, thanks to a first-half red card, and the playing conditions at the Estadio Azteca were terrible.
It remains to be seen if this will cause any real shift among the oddsmakers, but Rayados remain one of the safest options to win the Liga MX title. If you jump ship based on this result alone, you could end up regretting it come Liguilla time.
Depending on who you talk to, Pumas UNAM's electrifying start to the Apertura has been both surprising and anticipated. On one hand, the departure of star player Nico Castillo was suppose to severely handicap the Universitarios, as the team lost both their leader and main supplier of goals of the last few seasons. On the other hand, Pumas have made it a habit to start their season strong, only to fade away midway through the campaign.
It's that last part where bettors should be cautious about before going all in with the Universitarios. Yes, they've looked unusually good and the goals just seem to be coming from everywhere, but this is a team that has very little experience going deep into tournaments. Moreover, manager David Patiño's management skills haven't really been tested, and as past Liga MX tournament have shown, a manager can make or break a team's chances. If you are looking to put all your chips on Pumas after their 3-1 thumping of Atlas, you may want to wait a bit longer.
Cruz Azul look like the real deal after win over Tigres
For Cruz Azul, their Week 3 encounter against Tigres UANL was something of a statement game. It was their first real test of the season and a test they passed with flying colors. The Cementeros remain perfect this season with three wins out of three matches, and if you are wondering, yes there is plenty of room left on the Cruz Azul train.
Of course, it is almost obligatory to mention that Cruz Azul haven't won the league title since 1997, but what separates this Cruz Azul team from Pumas is the manager. For the first time in years, the fans seem completely bought into this Cruz Azul side, and there is a certain mystique building around the club under Portuguese coach Pedro Caixinha. Following an unsuccessful stint with Rangers in Scotland, Caixinha has returned to familiar territory, where he previously won a Liga MX title with Santos Laguna in 2015.
Moreover, Caixinha's style of play is more tactical. You can almost say Mourinhoesque, which is a style of play that tends to work quite well during the Liguilla. One example of this is last season's Xolos de Tijuana, who went all the way to the Semifinals and came to close to reaching the Final. The only difference here is this Cruz Azul team is much more talented than that Xolos team, and by the looks of it, more well suited to go all the way. All aboard?
Monterrey keep marching on as favorites
As far as contenders go, Monterrey have done a healthy job staying on top of the favorites board. Along with Pumas and Cruz Azul, Monterrey are the only other team to have won their first three games of the season, and although they have been far from brilliant, bettors of the Rayados have to be quite happy with what they've seen.
This is the thing about Monterrey. They know what it takes to win the Liga MX title. They might not look like they are going to demolish their opponents week in and week out, but once it comes down to the business end of the season it is when they start showing their true potential. This team is built to win the Liga MX Liguilla, and as long as there isn't any major signs of worry, they will remain one of the favorites to lift the title. That said, if you want to wait a bit longer, Monterrey's next match is against none other than Club América. The game will serve as a good barometer of where this Rayados team currently sits.
Through two weeks, it looks like the teams from Mexico City are on the rise. Club América, Cruz Azul and Pumas UNAM all got important victories, with the latter two finishing the week tied at the top of the league table.
Club América is more or less always considered one of the favorites to lift the league title at the end of the season. However, their favoritism received a big blow when star forward Jeremy Menez was ruled out even before the start of the Apertura campaign with a season-ending injury. A defeat to Necaxa in Week 1 followed, but las Águilas recovered some of the faith of their bettors on Saturday by thumping Atlas 3-0.
Las Águilas looked good, and it was arguably a near perfect day for Miguel Herrera’s men. The only worry, though, is that veteran striker Oribe Peralta didn’t get on the scoresheet. Peralta has struggled recently both with América and the Mexico national team, and as last season showed, it is imperative Peralta returns to his goal-scoring form or a Liga MX final run for las Águilas seems highly unlikely.
Other Mexico City teams look like contenders
Perhaps the two teams that have made the most buzz after two weeks are Cruz Azul and Pumas UNAM. Cruz Azul’s stock keeps rising, and there is a feeling that the Cementeros might finally have what it takes to lift the title for the first time in more than 20 years. Cruz Azul’s title drought has been a sort of inside joke among Mexican fans, but Jose Mourinho understudy Pedro Caixinha is slowly changing the perception of the Cementeros. Cruz Azul have two wins in two matches, their latest coming away from home against Chivas Guadalajara. In essence, there hasn’t been this level of optimism among Cruz Azul fans in years.
Pumas UNAM’s prospects have also been on the rise. Their thrilling 5-3 victory over Necaxa over the weekend helped put them officially on the map for bettors. After losing star forward Nico Castillo to Benfica in the summer transfer window, many left the Universitarios for dead. But Castillo’s departure has unexpectedly made Pumas a more cohesive side going forward, and now they find themselves top of the league table after just two weeks. If you are counting, that is now seven goals for Pumas this season, with six of those seven goals coming from a different goalscorer. Who needs Nico Castillo when you have an attack like that?
Monterrey teams quietly getting the job done
Both Tigres UANL and Monterrey are still seeking a commanding performance to cement their place as the top two favorites to win the league title, but for now, both teams are perfect after just two games. In the case of Tigres, they have been a team that traditionally always starts their season slow, but it’s been all positive for Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti’s men, with wins over Club León and Xolos de Tijuana. Most importantly, Andre-Pierre Gignac has scored in each of Tigres’ two matches. With age quickly becoming a factor for the Frenchman, there were doubts about how he would perform in this Apertura. But he has quickly put those doubts to rest and looks ready to help Tigres make another run for the title.
Meanwhile, Monterrey finished last season as the regular-season league leaders. In that regard, it wasn’t a surprise when most major oddsmakers put the Rayados as the big favorites to win the trophy. While they haven’t been a spectacular side like Cruz Azul or Pumas, they have quietly got the job done with two victories. It seems like a matter of time before Monterrey puts in a performance that finally cements their place as the bettors’ No. 1 choice to win it all.