In a rather surprising adherence to the published bracket, the top four seeds in the Liguilla emerged from their quarterfinal ties and sealed their places the semifinals last week. All of the remaining sides – Club America, Club León, Club Tijuana and Toluca – enter the last four with an opportunity to claim a berth in the final. The onus now falls on them to figure out a way to keep their seasons alive and secure a place in the final. Read on to learn more about the series and the key players involved in them before the semifinals start on Thursday night.
Toluca vs. Club America
First leg: Thursday at Estadio Azteca, Mexico City Second leg: Sunday at Estadio Nemesio Díez Riega, Toluca Talk about a study in contrasts. América advanced to this stage despite its inability to coax the best out of a group of supremely talented players. Toluca reached this point by constructing a cohesive unit and producing consistent results throughout the Apertura campaign. One of the two models will crumble by the end of this tie. Bet on the top seed to find a way to make it through to the final.
Key Toluca player: Sinha
The veteran schemer earned a surprising Mexico recall for his displays during the Apertura. He even scored the killer second goal in the first leg victory at CD Guadalajara to all but put Toluca through to this stage. Sinha must reproduce that sort of form in this tie to ensure Luis Tejada receives a steady supply from midfield and guarantee that Toluca creates enough opportunities to finish off at the sharp end.
Key Club America player: Christian Benitez
No player scored more frequently than the former Birmingham City man did during the Apertura. His menacing combination of pace and power should earn him a return to Europe at some stage, but he must continue to supply the goals to give his talented teammates a chance to finally pull everything together on the field.
Tijuana vs. Leon
First leg: Thursday at Estadio León, León Second leg: Sunday at Estadio Caliente, Tijuana The old guard might cringe a bit as the two newest sides in Liga MX dispatched more established outfits to set up this semifinal tie. Their success shouldn't come as a shock at this stage. Both teams – León with its potent attack and Tijuana with its miserly defense – excelled during the Apertura campaign. The side that imposes its preferred approach on this two-legged affair should claim a berth in the final.
Key Tijuana player: Javier Gandolfi
Gandolfi leads a Xolos back four that must perform in order to quell the potent León attack. The ex-River Plate man partners Pablo Aguilar in a central defense that ranked among Liga MX's top units during the Apertura. If he can help to keep things tight at the back in the critical first leg, then the Xolos may find a way to advance to the final.
Key Leon player: Matias Britos
The Uruguayan attacking midfielder scored twice in the 3-1 second leg victory against Cruz Azul to help the promoted side advance to the semifinals. The 23-year-old may have to combine with Nelson Maz and contribute once again in front of goal to aid León's quest for a berth in the final.