The final hour has come for the teams considered “big” and “rich” in Liga MX. Chivas, Cruz Azul, Pumas and Monterrey arrive at the playoffs with the label of being forced to give a good result to fight for the Clausura 2022 title, a weight they receive through their history and the value of their payroll, but not precisely because of their latest results, since in that area Puebla was better than the four.
The first appointment of the playoff will be at the Azteca stadium, when Cruz Azul receives Necaxa. In their last six home games against the rays, the cement team has an even record of three wins and three losses, but the hardest of them was in this tournament, since after it four other falls were derived from The Machine in House.
This negative record of five losses at home in the tournament conditions Cruz Azul’s favoritism against a Necaxa that closed with three wins in its last five games:
“We dream of the playoff, since we arrived that is what we seek, to be a rival that respects you and that is the way we play, we seek to nullify the rival, minimize their strengths, not let them play comfortable and with the ball we know what to do” , defined Jaime Lozano, coach of the Rays, on the last day of the regular phase.
At the end of the duel between cement workers and rays, also on Saturday, Monterrey will be held against Atlético de San Luis, which has more economic than sporting differences, since in the general table the Rayados finished above their rival only by three points , but in terms of the cost of payroll, the royals are worth more than double that of the potosinos: 74.6 million euros against 29.3.
Despite having the highest payroll in Mexican soccer in the last two years, Monterrey has had to live through the uncertainty of the playoffs in three of four editions, experiencing an embarrassing elimination at home against Puebla in the Guardianes 2020 and getting some revenge with a victory as a visitor against Cruz Azul in the Apertura 2021. The third date will be against San Luis this weekend.
“The mentality that we must have is to be a team that aspires to champion, no one can take that away from me. The team is mature, aware of the responsibility and it is already a personal commitment of each one of us to strengthen ourselves with that sum of wills and be a contender as we know Monterrey is going to be”, said Víctor Manuel Vucetich, coach of Rayados, in the pre-repechage.
Monterrey was the last champion before the pandemic, beating América on penalties in the second leg of the 2019 Apertura, but since 2020 and with the entry of the playoffs, it has not been able to advance beyond the quarterfinals, being eliminated in that instance. by Santos in Guardianes 2021 and by Atlas in Apertura 2021; the weight of his payroll demands that he jump closer to the title.
For the day on Sunday, Puebla will open against Mazatlán at the Cuauhtémoc stadium, with a sweet potato team that arrives with wounded pride after having occupied the Top 3 of the general table from day 3 to 16, but in the last one they fell to fifth with a combination of results that forces them to face the playoffs.
Puebla is one of the teams that has liked soccer the best after the pandemic, since in the last three tournaments it has advanced at least to the quarterfinals after five years of absence from leagues. The camoteros have passed the playoffs twice: in the 2020 Guardianes against Monterrey and in the 2021 Apertura against Chivas, hoping to reach a third victory against Mazatlán.
The Sinaloans, meanwhile, are debutants in the final phase. The team was born just in the summer of 2020 and after four tournaments in the First Division, it finally found the performance to sneak in as number 12 in the general table for the Clausura 2022 playoffs. Number 12 has had a hard time in the playoffs, since Querétaro and San Luis could not win it in 2021, while the last successful precedent was precisely Puebla in the Guardianes 2020.
The last series corresponds to Chivas and Pumas, to be held at the Akron stadium. Guadalajara is looking for its first league since Guardianes 2020, when they also entered via playoffs and advanced to the semifinals. After that they accumulate two consecutive defeats in playoffs, against Pachuca and Puebla.
The Guadalajarans do not trust Pumas to come from a painful defeat in the Concachampions final in the middle of the week and, on the contrary, they expect maximum potential in those led by Andrés Lillini.
“I expect a quite complicated Pumas. They are a team that doesn’t stop fighting for 90 minutes, they always show that claw that characterizes them and it’s going to be a pretty complicated match. Although they have the Concachampions final, they will surely have that little thorn that we beat them at home. We have to be well concentrated and leave everything on the pitch from minute one. It’s just one game away and we’re waiting for a more complicated Pumas”, highlighted midfielder Roberto Alvarado.
The title drought for the Clausura 2022 playoff participants is as follows: Puebla was champion for the last time 32 years ago, Necaxa 24 years ago, Pumas 11 years ago, Chivas 5 years ago, Monterrey 3 years ago and Cruz Azul 1 year ago, while that Atlético de San Luis and Mazatlán FC have never been First Division monarchs.
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