In a season that saw four teams stand out and play better than the rest, the playoff matchups for the Apertura 2013 season in the Liga MX are set after the end of the 17th round of play on Sunday. Because the playoffs won’t get started until November 23 because of the international break, the first round promises to be intriguing and could see several upsets as a result of the layoff.
Entering the playoffs as the no. 1 seed is Club America, who finished the regular campaign with 37 points, four clear of second-place Santos Laguna. While America were the best team during the regular campaign, their play in the last four games has dropped off a bit. A big reason that has been due to the fact that coach Miguel Herrera has been drafted as the interim coach of the Mexican National Team for the 2014 World Cup Qualifying Playoff against New Zealand, and he has brought along 10 players for those matches.
America will be playing no. 8 seed Tigres UANL in the first round. Tigres entered the Apertura 2013 playoffs thanks to losses for a few teams ahead of them, and they secured their spot with a 1-0 win on Saturday night. While the matchup looks like a total mismatch in Club America’s favor on paper, Tigres have a squad full of quality players. Because they only have one player playing for Mexico, they will be able to fine-tune their play.
In past playoffs, it has been common for no. 8 seeds to defeat the top seeds. After all, it happened to no. 1 Tigres in the Clausura when they got knocked out in the first round by city rival Monterrey.
The other playoff matchups include no. 2 seed Santos Laguna going up against no. 7 seed Queretaro in what is a matchup that heavily favors Santos, while no. 3 seed Leon take on the no. 6 seed and Copa MX Apertura 2013 champions Monarcas Morelia.
Leon are the team are playing the best entering the playoffs as coach Gustavo Matosas has created a well-oiled machine that is firing on all cylinders, and while they have several players playing for Mexico, they have not played like a team who are missing those players late in the season. Despite not making much noise, Morelia have been consistent since Carlos Bustos took over as coach, and will make this matchup very interesting.
The final matchup in the playoffs will see fourth seed Cruz Azul take on the fifth seed Toluca in what is likely the most high-profile matcup in the first round given the history of the two clubs. Cruz Azul have not really impressed during the season, but did a good job of maintaining and playing at a consistently good level. One figures they are a team who wants to make up for the ghosts of last season’s demoralizing final loss to Club America.
Toluca enter the playoffs as the highest-scoring team as they scored 33 goals during the Apertura season.
The result in the first leg could determine who in this matchup wins given that the game will be played at Toluca’s Nemesio Diez Stadium, a setting which has seen many of visiting teams lose handily in playoff action. When looking at the matchups, I think that given how well Leon and Toluca have been playing entering the playoffs, they will face off in the final with Leon being my pick to win the Apertura 2013 title.