The Liga MX is among the most unpredictable soccer leagues in the world.
The playoffs of the Liga MX or the ‘liguilla’ is even more unpredictable and is a league of its own. It does not matter where you finish in the Liga MX, in first or eighth, once the playoffs start, you have a chance at the title.
For years, there has been this superstition that the team that finishes in first place is cursed and will not live up to its potential in the ‘liguilla’. There have only been four champions who finished in first place since the playoffs were established as a phase of the Liga MX in 1996. The last to do it was Club America in the Apertura 2014 tournament.
The Xolos’ only first place finish came in the Apertura 2016 tournament. The Aztec Canines’ run in the playoffs was not successful, falling in the first round of the ‘liguilla’ to Leon. Leon emerged as a potent team with a lot of motivation ending the tournament as the eighth seed in the competition. This alleged curse is not the only worry for the border city side as finishing in first can create other problems that are not supernatural. The eighth seed that the Xolos will potentially face in the playoffs if they do finish in first place is set to be a very tough opponent.
Currently, there are a few potential candidates for that eighth seed that can prove to be a very dangerous opposition for Club Tijuana. Here are those potential teams and the dangers they pose to the Tijuana Xolos.
Pachuca currently occupies the eighth-place spot in the Liga MX, but is still considered a very strong team in the Liga MX. In week 9 of the Liga MX Clausura 2017, Pachuca defeated Club Tijuana 3-2 at the Estadio Caliente, which is still one of Tijuana’s toughest defeats of the year. Pachuca tore the Xolos’ midfield apart in that game, which is no small feat. The ‘Tuzos’ are coming off winning the CONCACAF Champions League title against Tigres UANL and could be a dark horse to take the Liga MX title in this Clausura 2017 tournament. Pachuca has one of the best defenses this tournament, having only ceded 12 goals this tournament. Pachuca’s home-field advantage will also be an incredible factor as the ‘Tuzos’ have not lost at home since 2015. While its offense does need some work, not having scored in six consecutive games, Pachuca will pose a huge threat to the Tijuana Xolos.
The runners-up of the CONCACAF Champions League will also pose a huge threat in the playoffs. Tigres UANL possesses one of the strongest rosters in North and South America. The Felines have a star-studded squad with players like Andre-Pierre Gignac, Eduardo Vargas, and Ismael Sosa. Apart from Tigres’ very potent attack, the team from Monterrey also has one of the best defenses in the league. The ‘Regios’ actually have the best defense in the Liga MX, having only ceded 11 goals in this Clausura 2017. Tigres UANL is also the current champions of the Liga MX having won the Apertura 2016 title. The Felines are perhaps the scariest side the Xolos may face in the playoffs and the border city side will get a preview of what Tigres is all about this Saturday in their week 16 match in the Liga MX.
Leon is the team that no Xolos fan wants to see in the playoffs. The Prehistoric Dogs did defeat Leon in week 5 of the Liga MX Clausura 2017 by a score of 4-2. It was the first time ever that the Xolos defeated Leon in Leon and things may not turn out the same in playoffs. In the Apertura 2016 playoffs, Leon defeated the Xolos by an aggregate score of 5-3 in two games. The ‘Esmeraldas’ are undefeated in their last five league games and will go into the playoffs with a lot of motivation if they do make the ‘liguilla’. ‘La Fiera is currently in 10th place with 19 points and has a great shot of coming into the playoffs with that eighth seed.
Atlas is currently in seventh place with 23 points but could fall to that eighth-place spot if other teams get favorable results. The ‘Zorros’ gave the Xolos a great fight in week 12 of the Liga MX, drawing 3-3 at the Estadio Jalisco. Atlas has the third-best offense this tournament, having scored 22 goals, and is a very potent team, especially at home. The Red and Blacks have a good shot at making the top eight and could prove to be a nightmare for Miguel Herrera and company.
Finishing in first is not always ideal, especially in the Liga MX, because it does not ensure that you will be matched up with the weakest opponent. It is even arguable that you may get the strongest opponent if you come away with that first-place spot. It will be interesting to see how the Liga MX plays out and whether the Aztec Canines will finish as ‘Superlideres’ and whether the “curse” will play a role in this tournament.