Less than twelve months ago Club Leon had just won their second consecutive Liga MX title. Now they face a battle to avoid finishing last.
Time: 7pm PDT / 10pm EDT / 3am BST
Date: Saturday 25th April
Where: Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara, Mexico
Watch: Univision Deportes (USA), Planeta Futbol, Televisa (Mexico)
Club Leon will be hugely thankful that the Liga MX uses such a convoluted system to determine which side gets relegated each season. Instead of following the European model of using the regular league table at the end of each campaign, the league instead follows the Latin America model of using the previous six seasons (three years) to establish which team has the worst points-per-game ratio.
It means Puebla are the side most likely to be relegated this season, despite never actually finishing last in the table, while clubs like Morelia (who finished last in the Apertura and are last again this season) and Leon are safe.
In truth, the system is a ruse to protect the biggest sides from relegation in the event of one bad season, and Leon are set to benefit hugely. This time last year, under the guidance of boss Gustavo Matosas, Leon were closing in on their second consecutive league title. Their midfield trio of Carlos Pena, Luis Montes, and Jose Vazquez looked set to be the backbone of Mexico’s World Cup team, and they were playing the most attractive football in the country.
As soon as they lifted the title it all started to wrong. Luis Montes broke his leg in World Cup warm up game, they failed to make the play-offs in the last Apertura, and Gustavo Matosas left for Club America.
They are now managed by former Barcelona striker Juan Antonio Pizzi and look like a poor imitation of the team of twelve months ago. They go into this weekend in seventeenth place, just three ahead of Morelia below them and with only three wins from their fourteen games so far this season. They are winless in six having lost four and drawn two, and having conceded five in two of them (5-1 vs Monterrey, 5-4 vs Queretaro). With Morelia showing signs of improvement, there is a strong chance that a loss could leave them in last place by Monday morning.
Atlas are another side that’s failed to reach the same heights as last season. They ended the Apertura in third place, grabbing a Copa Libertadores place in the process, but currently sit seventh in the league with just three games remaining. In their defence, a gruelling Copa Libertadores midweek schedule undoubtedly took it’s toll, but they have now been eliminated from the competition and need to focus on cementing a play-off spot domestically.
The only doubt for either side is Atlas’ Arturo Gonzalez, who was forced off in the first half of their midweek Copa Libertadores loss against Santa Fe.
Leon have had the better of the head-to-head results in recent times – winning each of the last five games, scoring 13 and conceding just three.
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