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Liga MX Season Openers Preview Article


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Liga MX: Season Openers Top Picks

Intro: Learning From MLS

We’ve seen countless teams return onto the pitch after a long layoff and countless teams look very rusty and sloppy.

Interestingly, eight Liga MX clubs already returned to participate in Copa por Mexico competition that resumed on July 3.

This means that some teams will return without rust and with a competitive advantage that is not being accounted for by oddsmakers.

This distinction between rust and no rust plus other factors give us strong Liga MX betting picks to place when top sportsbooks like 5Dimes and BetOnline release their odds.

Atlas FC vs Club Tijuana de Caliente
Saturday, July 25, 2020 at 10 p.m. ET at Estadio Caliente in Tijuana, Mexico

Tijuana’s Rust

Tijuana Xolos are one club that I expect to be rusty.

When they return on Saturday, they will play their first match since March 13, which is over four months ago.

In addition to having endured a long pause from competitive action, they bring in a host of new players and a new manager in Pablo Guede.

Of the 10 players that arrived, two were youths who did not see regular first-team action.

But the other eight players are first-teamers who have the ability and skill set to start immediately for the Xolos.

In the long-term, I think they will enjoy playing for Guede. Many of them possess distinctly offensive strengths and Guede is famous for being rather attack-oriented.

But this is the first match of the season. I think that it is absolutely crazy to expect new players and a new manager to suddenly gel with each other. Not to mention, they will try to gel after a four-month competitive layoff.

Atlas FC’s Advantage

Unlike Tijuana, Atlas has already re-dipped its feet into the waters of competitive soccer.

Atlas was one of eight teams who, this month, participated in the Copa por Mexico. They have three recent competitive matches under their belt, whereas Tijuana has zero.

So, if you’re looking to pick a winner in this match, Atlas has to be your choice.

Preferring The Total

I prefer the total in this match — specifically the „under.“

Yes, Atlas has played more recently.

But when they’ve played, they often exhibited a lot of ugly and uneventful football.

It’s hard to blame Atlas too much for this lack of excitement since they clearly miss midfielder Lorenzo Reyes, who has been out since February.

Osvaldo Martinez, who now plays at Puebla, is another tough loss.

He complimented Reyes’ physicality with his creativity. He was another midfielder who, along with Reyes, had made that position a stronger component of Atlas’ build-up play.

In recent Liga MX season play, Atlas has been one of the lowest-scoring teams because it lacks the playmakers to step up and create and convert good chances.

The Verdict

On paper, the Xolos look like they can score. But given the long layoff and the unique bevy of new players to go along with a new manager, we can only expect disjointed play and disappointment in attack.

Atlas, in turn, will keep the goal total low with its ugly play perpetuated by a dearth of playmaking talent that notably stems from the absence of guys like Martinez.

Best Bet: Under 2.5 Goals (odds TBA)

Club Santos Laguna vs Cruz Azul
Saturday, July 25, 2020 at 10 p.m. ET at Estadio Olimpico Universitario in Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico City

Little Offense Expected From Santos Laguna

On Saturday, Santos Laguna will play its first competitive match since March 15. After the long layoff, rust is to be expected.

Even if Santos were magically above feeling rusty, one should expect very little offense.

Previously, the squad revolved in attack around left-winger Brian Lozano.

But Lozano broke his leg and required an operation for it, which will cause him to sit out for an indefinite period of time.

Lozano was fast. He added good width going forward from his position as left winger. He used his speed and technical ability to convert and create chances.

Before his injury, he had produced 12 goals and seven assists in 27 matches in 2019-2020.

Santos knows who will try to take his place as the club has recognized its injury-induced deficiency and has tried to make up for it.

Gael Sandoval was brought in from Chivas. Sandoval has all of four goals and 15 assists in his career.

While Julio Furch boasts the squad’s most promising scoring numbers, he will have to assume a level of responsibility that, relative to what he’s been used to, will be unique to him.

I don’t think that Furch can step up as Santos needs him to because Furch only began to produce strong numbers for Santos after Lozano arrived for the 2017-2018 season.

Cruz Azul’s Advantage

Cruz Azul has the advantage of having played five Copa por Mexico matches in July. They will enter Saturday’s match with their feet wet and all signs of rust shaken off.

While Santos misses its top player, Azul is able to rely on its top guy, Jonathan Rodriguez.

Based on his goal totals, he is also a more consistent and more prolific scorer than Lozano.

His demonstrated ability to connect on crosses from his teammates makes things easier for Azul in attack. It’s relatively easy for substituted players to find their way inside the match by locating Rodriguez.

With his ball skills, his range, his chipping ability, and his overall skill set, Rodriguez also does a lot on his own.

Most recent numbers show that Santos is one of the least reliable clubs in garnering clean sheets with its last one coming against lackluster Atlas. We shouldn’t expect a clean sheet from Santos on Saturday.

The Verdict

In having to deal with one of Liga MX’s top scorers, one cannot expect what would be a rare clean sheet from Santos against an already seasoned Azul attack.

Besides the lack of rust, Azul also benefits from not having to deal with Lozano.

Best Bet: Cruz Azul ML (odds TBA)