Prior to Tigres' match with Chivas on April 11 at Estadio Universitario, Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti's team had only won three games, drawn four and lost five. The feeling prior to the game -- which Tigres went on to win convincingly 3-0 -- was that if the team was not able to get the three points, their Liguilla hopes would have been significantly hurt. Ferretti's men responded and the beast woke up. Including the win against Chivas, Tigres have since compiled an impressive record of eight wins and one loss, scoring 25 goals and conceding just three along the way.
In that same time frame, Chivas have only won once in their last nine matches. When looking at the numbers and recent performances, the series appears to be immensely favored toward Tigres, who have netted 10 goals in the Liguilla versus Chivas' three, only one of which came from open play. When both clubs are measured in this tale of the tape, Tigres have the upper hand.
After blocking three straight Club America penalties, Nahuel Guzman finished the 2016 Apertura final as one of the heroes. Guzman raises his game when it counts and it would be a huge surprise to see him commit any lousy errors.
Meanwhile, Chivas' Rodolfo Cota will enter this series with the desire to showcase his goalkeeping qualities on the grandest possible stage. When he started his career, Miguel Calero was his idol, and in order for Chivas to have a chance against Tigres, Cota will have to emulate a performance Calero gave in a final against Tigres in the 2001 Invierno, where he practically blocked every shot to lead Pachuca to a league title.
Tigres finished the regular with the best defense, allowing just 12 goals in 17 games played. In the Liguilla, they have only conceded once in four matches. The defensive order that center-backs Hugo Ayala and Juninho have provided has been close to perfect, while Chivas' defensive performances in the semifinals were not stupendous.
Meanwhile, two grave errors from Chivas permitted Toluca to score twice over the two legs of their semifinal. There are also still questions regarding whether defenders Carlos Salcido and captain Jair Pereira will be fit for this two-legged battle. Having Pereira back would be a huge moral boost for El Rebano Sagrado, but will he be 100 percent fit?
This is an area of the pitch where both teams come in strong. Without a doubt, you can make the argument that Javier Aquino, Guido Pizarro and Jesus Duenas lead a midfield that has been unstoppable in the playoffs, but Chivas' midfield is not far behind, as all three goals that the team has scored in the Liguilla have been scored by midfielders in Orbelin Pineda, Nestor Calderon and Rodolfo Pizarro. It's true that Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez committed a clumsy error in the second leg against Toluca, but his performances of late have been consistent. Tigres have the experience, but Chivas have the needed hunger to complicate things for Tigres' proven midfield.
Alan Pulido will head into the final with a nine-game scoring drought, and in the following days, he'll experience a whole mix of emotions with Tigres being his former home. Chivas will need for Pulido to excel in the 180 minutes of the final because Tigres' attack is flying high with Andre-Pierre Gignac and Lucas Zelarayan leading the way. Monterrey and Club Tijuana couldn't find ways to stop Gignac, and it's looking like Chivas won't be able to either.
Of the three matches that Tigres and Chivas have played since Matias Almeyda arrived in Liga MX in late 2015, El Rebano Sagrado have failed to win any of them. Tuca's Tigres have won the last two matches and Chivas couldn't score in either match. Pachuca's head coach Diego Alonso calls Tuca the best manager in Liga MX, and he's right. To defeat Tuca's Tigres, a lot of things will have to go right for Almeyda and Chivas.
Chivas have an advantage and that's the fact that the second-leg will take place at Estadio Chivas, where they only lost once in 10 games played (over the regular season and Liguilla combined). Also, there's still no complete certainty if Tigres knows how to handle a series when they're the favorite. Recently in the CONCACAF Champions League final, they came in as favorites, but when the games rolled along, they couldn't handle the pressure. Pachuca won 2-1 on aggregate; how much did Tigres learn from that experience? We'll find out in the next couple of days.