After earning a 1-1 draw at a snowy El Volcan, Tigres fans, especially Los Libres y Lokos, will think their team has a chance at a third straight Apertura title.
But the Estadio BBVA Bancomer has presented a problem for teams during the Liguilla. At their home stadium, Monterrey has outscored their opponents 8-1 during the “Final Phase.”
Whether Monterrey’s advantages could be attributed to a pitch that drained moisture relatively poorly or something else, the task appears monumental for Tigres.
But at the same time, Tigres’ utilitarian approach and zonal organization yielded something that challenged the Superliders‘ approach.
And given their fans’ rabid affection with their teams, players from both teams feel a sense of pressure to not make a mistake, something that could benefit Tigres but just as easily help the host Rayados.
Both Tigres fans and Rayados fans traveled to see their teams in training. At El Volcan after the match, Damian Alvarez cried when they cheered him on.
At Monterrey’s training grounds, several thousand fans, including many with the barras known as La Addicion to wave their flags and cheer on their team.
For the Rayados to win their first Liga MX title since Apertura 2010, they must not let the intensity of their fans’ support make them tentative, according to their manager Antonio ‘Turco’ Mohamed.
“Now it’s up to us,” ‘El Turco’ noted, “We [finish] at home, the statistics says we have not lost any matches. We go for the maximum that is the championship. If they had told me in June that I would have the Final at home and that we have to win the last game, I would buy it. There is nothing more beautiful than to depend on oneself, it will be very good but everything is open, we face a great team, they have very good footballers.”
One player who hopes the pressure of the derby final does not get to him for a second time is Jonathan Gonzalez. The 18-year-old defensive midfielder who was trapped into the errant pass that directly led to Tigres’ goal in the opening leg, hopes to have learned that lesson for the return leg, especially with scouts from several teams abroad, including Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, sent to Nuevo Leon to watch him and other players playing in the final.
For some in Nuevo Leon, the final means the last time several older players could suit up for their teams. Outside midfielder Dorlan Pabon, a protagonist who was often at the genesis of the Rayados‘ attacks in the Apertura, could be on the move to Pachuca in the winter. Substitute midfielder Luis Fuentes is also confirmed to return to Pumas UNAM. For the visitors’, the potential departures from the club are not known even though Andre-Pierre Gignac had been rumored in the past to have fielded offers from China and Brazil for his services.
In terms of tactical approaches, expect the two teams to continue to stick with the overall approaches that they employed in the opening leg. However, given the conditions of the pitch in Guadelupe, Rayados could decide to be bolder in when they decide to hit at the Tigres’ defense with long balls and throughballs. But with left back Nicolas Sanchez potentially out of the match due to injury, Tigres could find openings of their own against a shuffled back line.
Regardless of approach or lineups, if the match finishes tied at the end of the 90 minutes, two 15 minute halves of added extra time will be played. If the match is still tied after added extra time, the Apertura 2017 title will be decided in a penalty shootout.
The return leg kicks off Sunday, December 10 at 7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time (UTC -5) and can be seen on Univision and UDN in the United States. (The match can be streamed on FuboTV, Sling Best of Spanish TV, Univision Deportes, and Univision Now inside the United States and Fanatiz outside of the United States.)