LIGA MX APERTURA

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Mexico Primera Division 2819 8 Liga MX Apertura 2013 - Liguilla Preview 31969529 Table is set Table+is+set Mexico Primera Division

Club América spent the past fortnight securing Mexico's place in the World Cup. It must now shift its energies to another important objective: defending its Liga MX title in the Liguilla.

 

América must proceed through a daunting eight-team gauntlet to protect the championship earlier this year. Las Aguilas' staggering success during the Liguilla earned top spot in the seeding, but that perch provides only modest benefits given the perilous journey ahead.

 

Several top sides – including Club León, Cruz Azul (defeated finalists in the Clausura) and Santos Laguna – will aim to knock out the holders and secure their own place atop the heap at the conclusion of this tense playoff. One of those challengers – not the purported favorites América – starts the postseason as the top pick to win the Ligulla in the Liga MX Playoff Rankings:

 

--Kyle McCarthy

Hector Vivas/Jam Media/LatinContent - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G9_20131122030944221_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G9_20131122030944221_107_80.JPG
Mexico Primera Division 2819 8 Liga MX Apertura 2013 - Liguilla Preview 31967960 Club América Club+Am%26eacute%3Brica Mexico Primera Division

Why Las Aguilas could win the Liguilla: The rampant charge through the first half of the campaign drew widespread praise and inspired the FMF to adopt the club as a makeshift El Tri for the two-legged playoff victory against New Zealand. Miguel Herrera's 5-3-2 system caters to his players and offers the perfect mix of ambition and resolve.

 

Why they probably will not: Fatigue and focus will come under considerable scrutiny given the international demands placed upon much of the starting XI. Herrera's imminent departure offers the sort of sideshow known to distract contenders and prompt a rather unexpected downturn in results.

Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/LatinContent - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G8_20131122030944222_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G8_20131122030944222_107_80.JPG
Mexico Primera Division 2819 8 Liga MX Apertura 2013 - Liguilla Preview 31967961 Santos Laguna Santos+Laguna Mexico Primera Division

Why Santos could win the Liguilla: The combination of the league's best tactician (Pedro Caixinha) and Mexico savior Oribe Peralta ensures a competitive outfit from the start. The backing of a cohesive and well-drilled outfit in support of Peralta guarantees the sort of backing required to mount a genuine title challenge. Need proof? Santos won six of its final eight Apertura matches.

 

Why they probably will not: The closing stretch included a modest dip (one draw, one defeat) in the final two matches. And the interlude placed considerable stress on Peralta's balky knee. If Peralta isn't fit and flying, then this group – even with Darwin Quintero and Javier Orozco around to pick up the slack – won't take advantage of its place on the softer side of the draw.

Natalia Perales/LatinContent - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G7_20131122030846214_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G7_20131122030846214_107_80.JPG
Mexico Primera Division 2819 8 Liga MX Apertura 2013 - Liguilla Preview 31968824 Club Leon Club+Leon Mexico Primera Division

Why León could win the Liguilla: The defensive structure cobbled together by Gustavo Matosas provides a firm foundation for this side to press into the attacking third. Luis Montes and Carlos Peña supply the necessary thrust out of midfield to ensure the revitalized Mauro Boselli sees plenty of the ball inside the penalty area.

 

Why they probably will not: Boselli's productivity (11 out of his side's 25 goals during the Apertura) came mostly due to a lack of support from his teammates (no other player tallied more than twice). If the opposition can limit his influence, and tax the weary legs of Montes, Peña and Rafa Márquez, then holes could start to appear.

LEOPOLDO SMITH/AFP - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G6_20131122030719207_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G6_20131122030719207_107_80.JPG
Mexico Primera Division 2819 8 Liga MX Apertura 2013 - Liguilla Preview 31969528 Toluca Toluca Mexico Primera Division

Why the Red Devils could win the Liguilla: No team scored more goals during the Apertura. No player tallied more often than Paraguayan striker Pablo Velázquez. And no team matched the seven-goal display produced against Atlante in September.

 

Why they probably will not: The heady days of brushing aside the opposition ended as the season wound to a close. Morelia finished the season with four consecutive draws. Perhaps even more troubling: one of its earlier defeats came at home to opponents Cruz Azul.

Miguel Tovar/LatinContent - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G4_20131122030721210_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G4_20131122030721210_107_80.JPG
Mexico Primera Division 2819 8 Liga MX Apertura 2013 - Liguilla Preview 31967957 Tigres Tigres Mexico Primera Division

Why Tigres could win the Liguilla: For all of its struggles during the Apertura, Tigres remains a side capable of hurting the opposition. Lucas Lobos, in particular, provides the creativity and the incisiveness required to ensure the supply lines stay open for top scorer Alan Pulido.

 

Why they probably will not: This side never really found its stride during the Apertura. A final day victory earned this quarterfinal tie against Club América. And the dearth of consistency could prove fatal against the top-seeded Águilas.

Refugio Ruiz/LatinConten - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G2_20131122030721211_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G2_20131122030721211_107_80.JPG
Mexico Primera Division 2819 8 Liga MX Apertura 2013 - Liguilla Preview 31967958 Cruz Azul Cruz+Azul Mexico Primera Division

Why La Maquina could win the Liguilla: This seasoned outfit possesses all of the tools to replicate its run to the final from the Clausura. A run of seven matches unbeaten to close the Apertura reinforces the perception that these players – led by clever playmaker Christian Giménez and veteran target man Mariano Pavone – can rise to the occasion.

 

Why they probably will not: La Maquina might rise to the occasion during the knockout round itself, but it boasts a rather protracted and well publicized inability to close the deal. The surprising lack of sharpness in the final third during the Clausura (two goals scored in just two of the final eight games) won't help them break that duck.

Miguel Tovar/LatinContent - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G1_20131122030720209_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G1_20131122030720209_107_80.JPG
Mexico Primera Division 2819 8 Liga MX Apertura 2013 - Liguilla Preview 31967956 Querétaro Quer%26eacute%3Btaro Mexico Primera Division

Why Gallos Blancos could win the Liguilla: The surprise package of the Apertura relied on its collective strength to navigate its way into seventh place. Wilberto Cosme and Esteban Paredes provide enough of a threat on their day to worry opposing defenses.

 

Why they probably will not: Other teams simply have more talent and produce goals more reliably. The group includes quarterfinal opponent (and seasoned Liguilla performer) Santos Laguna. It will take a series of upsets to carry Gallos Blancos anywhere close to the summit.

SERGIO MALDONADO/AFP - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G3_20131122030720208_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G3_20131122030720208_107_80.JPG
Mexico Primera Division 2819 8 Liga MX Apertura 2013 - Liguilla Preview 31968825 Morelia Morelia Mexico Primera Division

Why Monarcas could win the Liguilla: This outfit knows how to squeeze a goal or two out by finding veteran poacher Hector Mancilla in dangerous areas. And the win against Club León during the Apertura underscores the ability to compete with the top sides.

 

Why they probably will not: All those goals leave the rearguard a bit exposed. No play-off side conceded more frequently during the Apertura. A rickety foundation isn't the sort of flaw a side wants to take into an affair with León.

Elizabeth Fuentes/Jam Media/LatinContent - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G5_20131122030721212_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/11/22/112113-Liga-MX-Gallery-JN-G5_20131122030721212_107_80.JPG
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