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Odds taken from Caesars Sportsbook
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Most sportsbooks have Monterrey listed as favorites for this fixture, but we don’t think that’s a completely accurate picture of the situations these two teams are currently in. Before we explain why, let’s preface it with the fact that Monterrey have only played three matches this season so far while the majority of the other teams in the league have played five. So a simple summary of what their form is like isn’t prudent – they haven’t played a Liga MX game since January 23 because they were engaged in the Club World Cup. However, they are also the current CONCACAF Champions League title holders, so keep that in mind.
Puebla, on the other hand, have quite clearly been one of the best sides in the Clausura season. They remain one of two teams who haven’t lost a game this season, and managed to hold on to top spot despite playing out a draw against Atlas on Saturday. They’ve also conceded only 3 goals from their 5 games, which is the joint-best record in the division. We think they will perform a fair amount better than their odds suggest, particularly at home, and are inclined to say their unbeaten run will go on this weekend.
The Puebla fairytale goes on. For all intents and purposes, they have the lowest market value in the league, a manager who is as old as his 37-year-old goalkeeper, and were on an unbeaten run that looked destined to end against title-holders Atlas on Saturday.
It seems that would play out when Atlas went 1-0 up in the 85th minute of an intensely fought match, at the end of which the possession was split 51-49 in Atlas’ favor, and the teams’ passing count hovering on either side of the 300 mark. There were 30 goal attempts made between them as well, with Puebla chipping away 17 times in front of their home support and eventually getting 5 on target.
The one that went in was pea theater – a bicycle kick in the fifth minute of added time, through Guillermo Martinez, that helped them salvage a point and consequently stay on top of the table.
Monterrey were among the teams that had direct entry into the second round of the Club World Cup by virtue of being CCL champions. But they couldn’t prevent a 1-0 loss against Al-Ahly in a match they dominated on every front, but in which they failed to be clinical in front of goal. So they had to settle for the fifth-place match, in which they got past Al Jazira in dominant fashion with three first-half goals.
They now return to Liga MX football, where their Clausura season has begun with an unbeaten run that involves one win and two draws. They return to the league with 5 points from 3 games, and an impressive goal return in that time – 6 from their 3. They are placed 11th, but that could change after the Mazatlan-Club America midweek fixture.
This is a fixture between two sides who’ve had mercurial starts to the season. Tijuana are struggling to avoid losses – their two unbeaten games this season, a win and a draw, have come in between losses and they are among the worst defenses in the league at the moment, languishing in 14th place with a goal difference of -5, which is the second worst record at the moment. That is also a consequence of them being the joint-lowest scorers in the league San Luis, with only three goals.
Necaxa have similar issues, and seemingly no middle ground to their campaign. Their five matches so far have had them either win or lose, and a defense that hasn’t been reliable for a clean sheet. They’ve conceded in every game they’ve played, even the ones that they’ve won. They come into this fixture on a high, having beaten Cruz Azul over the weekend. We don’t see either of these teams managing to find that middle ground, and if we’re to pick a winner, then Necaxa’s relatively better attacking record gives them a slight edge against Tijuana.
By this point in most leagues, it becomes clear which teams are struggling and destined for the lower rungs of the bottom half. Tijuana are looking prime for such a season at the moment, with the capability to hoard possession but no real plan from there. It’s the sign of a team that is conservative and getting onto the pitch with no quality in attack and an unreliable defensive line that can’t cover for any adventure the attackers show.
That is how things played out in their last fixture against Mazatlan, who hadn’t scored a single point all season prior to kick-off. Tijuana had 59 percent of the possession, and a superior passing frequency and accuracy – of 80 percent – that ultimately resulted in no substantial chances. A struggling Mazatlan were in the same boat – both teams only got two shots on target – but those chances were enough for them to pick up goals at the fag end of both halves and seal a 2-0 victory. In a battle between two struggling teams who totalled 37 fouls between them, Tijuana couldn’t find anything to progress their damp campaign.
Cruz Azul had some behind-the-scenes drama – an unexpected change of technical director that reportedly drove the manager to consider resigning – coming into their home game against Necaxa and lost their opportunity to go to first place with a win on a weekend where Puebla and Atlas – the first and second placed teams – were going to take points off each other.
In contrast, Necaxa took their opportunities to find goals in the 84th and 95th minutes to overturn a scoreline of 1-0 and seal their second win of the season. Despite playing away from home, it was Necaxa that looked most threatening in this fixture, bossing both the possession – 53 percent – and passing – 78 percent accuracy – stats and turning those into a sustained barrage at Cruz Azul’s goal. Their 19 goal attempts, 7 of which were on target, were an impressive return against one of the tougher opponents in the league who only managed 10 attempts with 2 on target.
Tigres UANL (-210)
Tigres UANL seem to be finally coming good on the attacking talent that they boast, and have scored 9 goals from their last 3 games – all of which they’ve won – as they continue a swift ascent on the table after an indifferent start which saw them take only a point from their opening two games. A confident 3-1 win away at Guadalajara will have done their confidence a world of good.
And there aren’t many better teams to face in the league than San Luis at the moment if you want to keep a high-scoring record intact. After beginning the season with three straight losses, San Luis managed an unlikely win against Club America, before being brought straight back into 17th place by a 10-man Toluca. We don’t see them getting anything out of this away trip.
It took a 97th minute penalty against Pumas UNAM from Andre-Pierre Gignac for Tigres to register their first win of the season, and they have been rampant in the final third since then. It was Guadalajara that felt the effects most recently, conceding as early as the 7th minute and never finding any reasonable way back as Gignac doubled the lead before half-time and Carlos Gonzales made it 3-0 in the 70th. Tigres haven’t prioritized possession as much as some other teams in the league, which is a suitable gameplan with the threats they have up-front; their high-risk, direct attacking style resulted in 17 goal attempts against Guadalajara and a conversion rate of 6 shots on target proved lethal.
San Luis were already sinking early in the season, seemed to find a buoy against Club America, and then had it frustratingly snatched away by Toluca. Their opponents would manage only 7 goal attempts, with 2 on target, but the singular goal that sealed their win came in the 7th minute and made San Luis’ big-picture problem of already playing catch-up a more immediate, local one. It wouldn’t have helped their resolve that Diego was sent off in the fourth minute of added time in the first half, and the resulting advantage translated to 60 percent possession, 19 goal attempts, and 7 shots on target that ultimately yielded no points.
This is likely to be the highest-profile fixture this weekend. Apertura title-holders Atlas have had a fitting start to the season, with no losses in their 5 games and 11 points that have kept them in second place only by virtue of scoring two goals fewer than league leaders Puebla while matching their defensive record of only 3 goals conceded.
Pumas UNAM on the other side have been the most exciting, TV-friendly side so far this season. They began the Clausura season with a 5-0 drubbing of Toluca, and their two wins since that have only come in games in which they’ve picked up red cards. It is first gear or fifth gear for this side at the moment, who sit in 6th place and lead the scoring charts with 11 goals.
They play in the CCL midweek and might not be at their complete, chaotic best against one of the best defensive teams in the league this weekend. We don’t see them picking up more than a point this weekend, if they pick up any at all.
Atlas perhaps hadn’t underestimated Puebla’s run at the top of the table as much as the fans and media, but they were given a strong reminder over the weekend nonetheless that they aren’t the only sheriffs in town.
They went about the Puebla fixture in trademark organized fashion, nicking the possession closely at 51 percent. That slow-burn style resulted in an 85th minute goal which would have given them their 4th win in 5 games this season, and an assured spot at the top of the table. If they’d managed to close off the game, that is. Instead, they got a world-class finish in the 5th minute of added time that shut the door on three points against their closest rivals for the title at the moment, a moment that drove this kid to cathartic tears.
— Club Puebla ? (@ClubPueblaMX) February 12, 2022
Pumas UANM haven’t yet found a boring way to win, and the struggling Leon became the latest victims of their hustle. In a busting end-to-end game, Pumas only managed 37 percent of the possession but matched Leon’s influence up front by getting 12 goals attempts and 4 shots on target in, versus 13 goals attempts and 5 on target.
Arguably, this could have been a game that they won with a bigger margin and with more comfort. Having gone 1-0 down in the 20th minute, Pumas equalized in quick time through a Jose Rogerio goal in the 24th minute.
At the stroke of half-time, they turned the scoreline into 2-1 – which would remain the score at the end of the game – and couldn’t capitalize on Leon’s 51st minute sending off. Later in the game, Alan Mozo was sent off, which would be the only substantial highlight for them in the second half.
|Liga MX Information|
|Teams||Puebla vs Moneterrey, Club Tijuana vs Necaxa, Tigres UANL vs San Luis, Atlas vs Pumas UNAM|
|Time||Friday, February 18 at 8 PM EST onwards | Saturday, February 19 at 8 PM EST | Sunday, February 20 at 9 PM EST|
|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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