One would be hard pressed to remember the last time a Mexican first division final was so anticipated because both teams playing in the final were considered to be two of if not the two best attacking teams in the league. Luckily for us who watch and follow the Liga MX, the Apertura 2013 playoffs deliver a mouth watering final as defending champions Club America will play Leon in a two legged affair with the first leg to be played on Thursday evening in Leon.
Club America come into the final against Leon looking to repeat and become only the second team since Mexico switched to the two season format to win back to back league titles. Winning would mean that they would move to 12 league titles, surpassing rivals Chivas de Guadalajara in having won the most first division league titles much to the chagrin of Chivas fans like yours truly. The final also represents the last two games that Miguel Herrera will coach for America before he assumes the full time role as coach of the Mexican National Team.
America comes into the final having found ways to use the fact that they played their respective second leg games at home thanks to them finishing top of the league table during the regular campaign. They defeated Tigres UANL in the quarterfinals thanks to the two away goals they scored, and in the semifinal they defeated Toluca 3-2 after having lost the first leg 2-1. For the first leg game, Miguel Herrera will be fielding the same starting eleven he has fielded for all the playoffs with Moises Munoz in goal and three central defenders in Francisco Rodriguez, Aquivaldo Mosquera, and Juan Carlos Valenzuela. The two wing backs are Paul Aguilar and Miguel Layun with Juan Carlos Medina as the lone holding midfielder with Ruebens Sambueza, Osvaldo Martinez on the wings and Raul Jimenez and Luis Gabriel Rey the starting forwards.
Leon come into the final having had an easier going in their two playoff series as they defeated Monarcas Morelia 7-3 on aggregate in the quarterfinals and then defeated Santos Laguna 5-3 on aggregate in the semifinals. Leon finished third in the league table during the regular campaign. They are coached by Uruguayan Gustavo Matosas who has not only formed a very explosive team in attack but has also led the team in its third season back in the first division after coaching it back from second division play where Leon were for 10 years. Leon will be looking for its sixth first division title in team history with their last triumph coming in 1992.
While not confirmed, it is safe to assume that the Leon starting eleven on Thursday night will feature William Yarbrough in goal with a four man defense composed of Edwin Hernandez, Rafael Marquez, Jonny Magallon and Juan Ignacio Gonzalez. In the midfield, Juan Jose Vasquez and Hernan Burbano will be the holding midfielders with Carlos Peña and Luis Montes as the attacking midfielders and Mauro Boselli and Matias Britos the starting forwards.
Key Tactical Matchup and Prediction
The key matchup in any final is the battle in the midfield, and in this final that is not an exception as battle will be how well Club America, and in particular Juan Carlos Medina and either wing back, are able to slow down the attacking pressure from Carlos Peña, Luis Montes, and Hernan Burbano. How well Medina is able to break up or at the very least slow down Leon’s attacks from the midfield with some support will determine whether or not America can minimize the amount of pressure their three man central defense will be exposed to. In the end, I see Leon taking advantage of playing the first leg at home and winning 2-1 while the return leg will finish 1-1. And with that I have Leon winning their sixth first division title in club history.