Although it's easy for Mexico fans to dwell on the current problems with the national team, it's now time to refocus on the Liga MX regular season, which will pass the halfway point this weekend.
As unpredictable and erratic as the league can (and always will) be, critics and fans may now begin to get a sense of what the upcoming playoffs, or Liguilla, might look like. Let's take a look at the five teams who are the current favorites to walk away with this year's Apertura title.
Manager Miguel "Piojo" Herrera has found a way to channel some of his own infamous energy into Los Xolos' strikers. The squad is currently sitting in first place and has the most in-form attack thanks to Dayro Moreno, Aviles Hurtado, and Gabriel Hauche. Mix in some surprisingly excellent goalkeeping from 39-year-old Federico Vilar, and the result is a team that has dominated the first eight weeks of the tournament.
Will the nine-year-old club be able to secure a second title?
Although Xolos have the most in-form attack, Tigres have the most talented attack. Stars like Andre-Pierre Gignac, Javier Aquino, Ismael Sosa, and the recently signed Andy Delort have the abilities to knock in a couple goals against any roster in Mexico. Manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti has the leadership to take this squad far, and has yet to lose a single game in the Apertura.
Once the playoffs roll around, Los Auriazules will also have the massive advantage of playing in front of some of the most passionate and boisterous soccer fans in the country.
Given the rate that America has been collecting trophies - four in all competitions since 2013 - Las Aguilas can't be overlooked in the title race. Despite their current fifth-place spot in the standings, the Mexico City side is a talented and scrappy bunch that is able to survive both early setbacks and playing with a man down. Mental strength should help carry the team very far in the Liguilla - and if not, mananger Ignacio Ambriz will surely be fired from an organization that expects titles and championships.
The roster made up of only Mexican players has recently been able to thrive under the leadership of Argentine manager Matias Almeyda. Up-and-coming players like Javier "Chofis" Lopez, Michael Perez and Orbelin Pineda have taken advantage of their starting roles and provided some of the most exciting and dynamic futbol in Mexico. The addition of Alan Pulido, a former national team player and Liga MX star who was recently in Greece, will help the attack as well.
The big question now is, can Almeyda's young squad maintain the same kind of energy that they've shown during the past few weeks?
This is the part of the article where Pumas, Pachuca and Morelia fans will begin to justifiably complain. While all three of those aforementioned clubs are currently doing better than Los Rayados, consider this: After Monterrey's hugely embarrassing exit from the CONCACAF Champions League, the organization will now have to put all of its energy and attention on Liga MX.
Injury problems have hurt the team in recent matches, but given a few more weeks, the highly-talented club will likely bounce back and gain some much-needed points. With impressive stand-out names like Edwin Cardona, Carlos Sanchez, Dorlan Pabon and Alberth Elis, you can't count out Monterrey just yet.
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