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Juarez will host Atlas at the Olimpico Benito Juarez on Saturday. There isn’t much riding on this game as far as the Liga MX table is concerned because both sides are unlikely to make it to the playoffs.
Juarez and Atlas are tied on 13 points, but Atlas have the better goal difference. Despite that little difference, Juarez are the slight favorites because they’re the home side.
Atlas’ last league match was a thrilling 3-3 draw against Guadalajara. Juarez lost their last league match 2-0 to Puebla.
Odds taken from bet365.
Pick: Draw. (+210)
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This isn’t an easy game to call. Atlas are the stronger side, but not by much. Add to the fact that Juarez are at home, and Atlas have their most important game of the season three days later – a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second-leg tie against Philadelphia Union – and it’s hard to confirm if Atlas will play their strongest squad. If Atlas win this match, they give themselves the slightest of chances to qualify for the playoffs, so there are reasons for them to play a strong squad.
If they don’t play their strongest squad, you’d have to consider Juarez the favorites. Of course, losing a match before your most significant game of the season isn’t ideal, either, so Atlas have to play a squad that’s strong enough to earn a draw, at least.
This is the most likely outcome: Atlas will play a team that can go toe-to-toe with Juarez but rest two or three of their best players and get them to come off the bench to avoid a loss. This match has all the makings of a low-scoring draw.
Atlas have a superior head-to-head record. In fact, Juarez have won just one of their six matches against Atlas; Atlas have won every other encounter. The positive for Juarez is that the win came in the last meeting between the two sides.
The last match between the two sides took place back in August 2022. Juarez won 1-0 on the day and just about deserved the victory. Jesus Duenas scored the solitary goal in the 65th minute. Juarez had 44% of the possession but took 12 shots to Atlas’ eight.
At the time, it wasn’t clear that Atlas were undergoing a drastic decline, so this was a massive upset. Atlas were all over the place in this game, which was a sign of things to come. Atlas are a better side this season, and Juarez are more of the same as last season, so it’ll be fascinating to see just how much Atlas have improved since last season.
Juarez lost 2-0 to fellow midtable strugglers Puebla over the weekend. This was a massive game for both sides, as the winner would keep their playoff hopes alive. Juarez are still in the run for the playoffs mathematically, but it should be a matter before it’s confirmed that they won’t be making the playoffs.
It was a stinging defeat because Juarez had the chances and the possession to change the outcome. They were playing at home, had 52% of the possession, and took 15 shots compared to Puebla’s nine but weren’t as clinical as the away side.
In many ways, Juarez gifted Puebla the three points. They conceded a penalty in the 69th minute, and Pubela’s Martin Barragan made no mistake from the spot to put the visitors ahead against the run of play. Without just 20 minutes left, Juarez started huffing and puffing for a goal but it was to avail. Federico Mancuello twisted the dagger into Juarez hearts with a goal eight minutes into stoppage time and confirmed the victory.
Juarez were arguably the worst team in the league in the 2021-22 season, and the 2022-23 season has been much better. They finished in 11th place in the Apertura and it looks like they’ll finish somewhere between 11th-15th in the Clausura; this is undoubtedly a marked improvement.
The next step has to be entering the playoffs. They came quite close last season but lost out by three points. If they lose this match, they’ll certainly not enter the playoffs.
They’ve scored 15 goals this season, which isn’t a bad return, but they have already conceded 20 this season, which is two goals more than they conceded in the Apertura season. The focus in the next transfer window has to be defensive additions.
Atlas’ 3-3 draw against Guadalajara was undoubtedly the most exciting game from last weekend. The first-half included four goals, and had all sorts of twists and turns. Guadalajara took the lead thanks to Roberto Alvarado in the fourth minute and went 2-0 in the 31st minute thanks to Carlos Ernesto Cisneros.
Atlas, however, didn’t get bogged down and opened their account two minutes later, thanks to Carlos Quinones, before Ozziel Herrera leveled the scores just before the half-time whistle. Neither side changed their approach after half-time, with Alexis Vega putting Guadalajara up 3-2 10 minutes after the break and Quinones getting his second of the day two minutes later.
Both sides kept searching for the winner, but the match ended 3-3 in the end. There were 41 shots taken on goal between the two sides, with Atlas taking 21 of them. Atlas had 58% of the possession, and both sides took 11 shots on target. This was one of the finest games of the season and an excellent advert for the league.
Atlas’ recent performances are very unlike those from earlier in the season and last season. The 3-3 draw against Guadalajara was a fair result, but Atlas were the better side on the day by a slight margin. This is no small feat, considering Guadalajara are the sixth-best team in the league as things stand.
Atlas also destroyed Puebla and Olimpia 4-0 last month. The only disappointment in the last few weeks has been a 1-0 loss to the strong Philadelphia Union side in the first-leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal, but they have a second-leg tie to make amends.
Whatever happens in that game, it can’t be denied that Atlas are showing some spark again. They were Apertura and Clausura winners in the 2021-22 campaign, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone to know that there’s some talent in this squad, but the manner of their decline last season had everyone questioning if this is the end of Atlas’ era.
The biggest positive recently is the attacking department; Atlas have scored 11 goals in their last four matches in all competitions. It might be too late to salvage a playoff spot, but they can take some of these positives into next season.
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Teams: Juarez vs Atlas
Location: Estadio Olimpico Benito Juarez
Time: Sunday, April 9 at 8:10 pm ET onwards
How to watch: Univision networks TUDN and UniMas, ESPN Deportes, Telemundo, and Fox Deportes
With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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