Clasico Nacional, Necaxa's fairytale, Torrente fever headline fun Liguilla
MEXICO CITY -- Liga MX will enter the best part of its season on Wednesday, when the Liguilla kicks off with Leon hosting Club Tijuana.
In Mexico, the Liguilla is known as the Fiesta Grande -- the grand party -- and it certainly feels like one, with Chivas and Club America set to play two more editions of the Clasico Nacional in the quarterfinals, starting on Thursday.
Here are five storylines that every fan can follow in the coming days:
Necaxa's fairytale continues
Necaxa coach Alfonso Sosa waited a long time to live a moment like Saturday night at Estadio Chivas. His newly promoted Rayos earned a tough point in a match that saw them play the entire second half down a man following Edson Puch's 40th-minute red card. With the 1-1 draw, Necaxa secured its place in the Liguilla.
Sosa had already experienced life as a first-division manager before taking the Necaxa job in late 2015, though it came to an abrupt ending as his Leones Negros only lasted one calendar year in Liga MX. Los Rayos offered him a second chance, and Sosa and his side are now poised to enter the Apertura playoffs.
The series against Pachuca will showcase two unique styles of play. Los Tuzos will look to command the game by controlling possession, while Necaxa will look to take the hits and execute its scoring chances on the counter.
The exciting thing about this matchup? Both Pachuca and Necaxa have yet to lose a single game at home in the entirety of this calendar year.
Chivas seek first league title in decade
At their peak, Chivas have looked like a side with all the tools to win the league this Apertura, something they haven't done since the 2006 Apertura. But not everything has been picture perfect for Matias Almeyda's squad. El Rebano Sagrado finished 14th in the scoring department with 21 goals, hardly the return of a championship-winning side.
Chivas struck four goals in their first six games to start the season. In their seventh match of the campaign, they put three past Club America's defense.
In order for that to happen, Alan Pulido, Angel Zaldivar or Marco Bueno must hit a hot streak when the Liguilla starts. Almeyda might do well to make Javier Eduardo "Chofis" Lopez the team's attacking engine, too.
America's last hope in poor centennial year
There's simply no way around it: America's last chance to make a significant impression in its 100th-anniversary year is by winning its 13th league title.
After a dismal first half against Pachuca last Saturday, Las Aguilas stormed back from 2-0 down to take a 3-2 lead. Ricardo La Volpe's side managed just a point in the eventual thrilling 3-3 draw, but the second-half performance included some of America's best minutes in the La Volpe era. The team looked more composed and familiar with the manager's ideas, something that was not perceivable in the Copa MX semifinal loss to Chivas. America will head into the Clasico Nacional showdown with plenty of optimism.
Miguel "Piojo" Herrera's revenge
It's fair to say that Miguel "Piojo" Herrera and his coaching staff got it right with their offseason moves. The additions of Guido Rodriguez, Victor Aguilera, Aviles Hurtado and Milton Caraglio in particular have allowed Xolos to play exciting football this season.
The squad also boasts one of the most complete strikers in the league in Dayro Moreno, and it seems that after a first-place finish in the regular season, Club Tijuana is prepared to contend for the title.
Herrera should see this as a golden opportunity to add another Liga MX trophy to his resume. If Tijuana wins its second league championship in the coming weeks, it will validate "Piojo" as the best Mexican coach of his generation. However, in order to reach the semifinals, Xolos will have to eliminate the hottest team in Liga MX, Leon, a tall task indeed.
Can Tijuana withstand Javier Torrente's energetic Leon? We'll find out.
Torrente, a student of Bielsa, returns joy to Leon
In Leon, they believe. Torrente has returned joy to Estadio Leon since his arrival, a place where, up until recently, attendance had dropped with Luis Fernando Tena in charge. La Fiera fans are eager for their team to be efficient and intense up front, and with Tena, they simply weren't connecting. The team looked frail.
When Torrente took over Leon in late August, La Fiera had won four points of a possible 21. By the end of the regular season, Leon had achieved 22 points of a possible 30. The transformation was complete. Torrente returned the fire into the squad, and now Leon is eyeing a third league title in a three-year span.
If Leon wins the league, Torrente could easily become the city's next mayor.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.