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Pick: Leon to win. (+130)
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This match is difficult to predict because there’s a more important tie between the two sides a few days later, and the two sides have already qualified for the playoffs. Tigres are in better form recently, but Leon are playing at home, so the latter go into this as slight favorites. Leon will also be eager to take some confidence into the second-leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semi-final between the two sides a few days later after losing 2-1 in the first-leg.
Leon are two points ahead in the league table in sixth place, so a win or a draw would confirm that spot. Leon looked like they could end the regular season in second-place not too long ago, so this drop-off is a bit concerning. There’s more on the line for Leon than Tigres in this match; it’s a dare-not-lose tie for Leon, whereas Tigres can use this game as preparation for the second-leg. A draw looks like the best option, and the odds are quite rewarding as well.
Tigres have got the superior head-to-head record in this fixture with 12 wins, eight draws, and seven losses. The most recent encounter between the two sides was just a few days back in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal first-leg, and Tigres came out on top 2-1.
Leon got off to an excellent start, with Victor Davila finding the target within six minutes, but a disastrous end to the half saw Sebastian Cordova and Luis Enrique Quinones score in quick succession to give Tigres a 2-1 lead into half-time.
There were no goals in the second-half but it was an interesting watch, nevertheless. Tigres ended the match with 26 shots on goal and Leon took 16, so there was little doubt regarding who was the more worthy winner. Both goalkeepers were quite busy with Tigres taking 10 shots on target and Leon taking eight. If the upcoming tie is half as entertaining as the game from midweek, it should be a great game.
Before the loss to Tigres in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal, Leon dropped points in the league against Club Tijuana in a 0-0 draw. It was a match to forget for Leon, with Oscar Villa getting sent off in the 14th-minute. Playing with 10 men isn’t ideal under any circumstances, but playing with one less outfield player for 76 minutes is achingly frustrating.
They had to concede possession for large parts of the game, which isn’t something they’re used to. They had just 38% of the possession, but did well to take 18 shots in the match – this was more than Club Tijuana’s 15.
They also took eight shots on target compared to Tijuana’s three, which was impressive considering they were also away. Keeping a clean sheet was another positive in hindsight, but they should’ve never gone down to 10 men in the first place.
If they won this tie, they could’ve been in the running for second place on the Liga MX table. Instead, they look like a team that’s lost some momentum in the most crucial phase of the season.
Leon beat Violette 5-0 in the first-leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal tie, so the tie was essentially over. They lost the second-leg 2-1, which didn’t feel like a huge result at the time, but they’ve not won their three games after that loss in all competitions.
It’s a cliche within soccer media that ‘there are no small games’, but this part of the reason why this cliche remains relevant. Teams can lose momentum very quickly, and end on a barren run out of nowhere.
In some ways, the upcoming game against Tigres feels like a small game because there aren’t great consequences if Leon lose this tie, but it’s a great chance for Leon to end a barren run and take some confidence into their second-leg tie in the CONCACAF Champions League against Tigres.
A win might just give them the psychological edge before the big tie in midweek, and change their entire season. The playoffs are just around the corner as well, so it doesn’t hurt to get some wins on the board before these all-important games start.
Andre-Pierre Gignac’s 49th-minute penalty was enough to give Tigres all three points against Puebla last weekend. Tigres were unfortunate to not score more goals on the day – they took 21 shots to Puebla’s 11, and took six shots on target compared to Puebla two. Tigres also had 56% of the possession, so there was no question that they deserved to win this match.
The only concern was that they weren’t clinical, which could be a problem in the playoffs. Andre-Pierre Gignac has been incredible since joining the club, but he could use some support.
Tigres have conceded just 14 goals this campaign. Monterrey, who are leading the league, are the only side who’ve conceded fewer goals in this campaign, which shows just how strong Tigres have been at the back. The center back pairing of Igor Lichnovsky and Diego Reyes deserves a lot of credit for organizing the backline, and for their own performances.
Defense is often the more important area in playoff ties, and it has proven true for Tigres in the CONCACAF Champions League as well, where they’re a draw away from entering the finals. If they can stop Leon from scoring this weekend, they’ll go into the midweek fixture with a lot of confidence, so it’s best if they rest some of the forward players, like Gignac, but play the backline that has done so well this season.
The attack hasn’t been firing like in previous seasons, with just 20 league goals this season, but they have a tried-and-tested marksman in Gignac, who can do the business when it matters most.
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Teams: Leon vs Tigres
Location: Estadio Leon
Time: Sunday, April 30 at 7:05 pm EST 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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