Atlas supporters have been craving this moment for decades. The Guadalajara-based club is on the cusp of ending a 70-year Mexican league title drought when it faces Club Leon in a home-and-home final on Thursday and Sunday. The team that scores the most goals across both matches wins the Apertura 2021 title.
It’s the first time in 22 years that Atlas has even made the Mexican league final, but the Zorros thoroughly deserved it, finishing with the second-best record over the 17-game regular season. It was powered by the best defense in the league (only 10 goals allowed) and the fourth-best attack. Despite the success, Atlas fans maintained tempered expectations having grown accustomed to playoff disappointment. That didn’t happen this time.
Atlas knocked off Monterrey and Pumas UNAM in the quarters and semis, only advancing in each instance due to its higher playoff seed (No. 2) serving as the tiebreaker. That tiebreaker won’t apply in the final: It’ll be straight to extra time and penalty kicks if the two teams are even after 180 minutes of action.
MORE: Why Barcelona has struggled mightily this season
The final hurdle for Atlas is No. 3-seed Leon, which has become somewhat of a regular in the final over recent seasons. This year’s showdown against Atlas is Leon’s third appearance in the last five finals. Victory over the two legs would be La Fiera’s ninth championship, good for fourth-most all-time.
These teams compiled identical records during the season and both have clear identities predicated on tactical organization, honest defensive work and timely, clinical goals. It makes for a compelling final in which it’s tough to identify a clear favorite. Atlas did beat Leon in the only regular season meeting: a 2-0 home win during which Leon failed to register a single shot on goal despite outpossessing and outpassing Atlas.
How to watch Atlas vs. Leon liguilla final
- Date: Thursday, Dec. 9
- Time: 9:55 p.m. ET
- Spanish-language TV: Univision, TUDN
- Streaming: fuboTV, Prende TV
- Date: Sunday, Dec. 12
- Time: 8 p.m. ET
- Spanish-language TV: Univision, TUDN
- Streaming: fuboTV
The Liga MX Apertura final between Club Leon and Atlas will be played over two legs beginning Thursday, Dec. 9 in Leon, and concluding on Sunday at the home of higher seed Atlas.
The first leg will be held at Leon’s Nou Camp stadium (Estadio Leon) in front of a 100-percent capacity crowd of nearly 32,000. The Atlas stadium is currently set for 90 percent capacity by local officials.
MORE: COVID outbreak wreaking havoc on Tottenham
Leon vs. Atlas Lineups
Leon starting left back Osvaldo Rodriguez, who is also a regular call-up for the senior Mexican national team, is suspended due to the red card received in the series against Tigres. Natural right back David ‘Avion’ Ramirez is likely to replace him. Colombian winger Omar Fernandez (tendinitis) is an injury concern, but Elias Hernandez will be back.
While the ‘keeper and back four are fixtures for Leon manager Ariel Holan, he has changed the look of his attack on occasion, playing with two forwards at times, or with a main target and three attackers behind him in support. The latter would probably provide the ideal balance for the first leg of a final.
Club Leon projected starting lineup (4-2-3-1, left to right): 30-Rodolfo Cota-GK (capt.) — 28-David Ramirez, 6-William Tesillo, 21-Jaine Barreiro, 4-Andres Mosquera — 8-Jose Rodriguez, 22-Santiago Colombatto — 16-Jean Meneses, 7-Victor Davila, 13-Angel Mena — 14-Santiago Ormeno
Club Leon projected subs (10): 1-Alfonso Blanco (GK), 23-Ramiro Gonzalez (CB), 5-Fernando Navarro (RB), 3-Gil Buron (RB/LB), 26-Fidel Ambriz (CDM), 188-Isaac Muniz (MF), 10-Luis Montes (CAM), 25-Omar Fernandez (LW), 11-Elias Hernandez (RW), 20-Emanuel Gigliotti (CF)
For several weeks now, Atlas manager Diego Cocca has rolled out the same starting lineup in every game and the side’s defensive solidity can be attributed in part to that consistency in the team selection.
The ankle injury that forced Julian Quinones off the field with 20 minutes remaining in the semifinal against Pumas UNAM has put him in doubt for the match and he will be a gametime decision. If he can’t make it, Christopher Trejo could be the replacement after he came on for Quinones against Pumas.
Atlas projected starting lineup (3-5-2, left to right): 12-Camilo Vargas-GK — 27-Jesus Angulo, 2-Hugo Nervo, 5-Anderson Santamaria — 14-Luis Reyes, 18-Angel Marquez, 26-Aldo Rocha (capt.), 20-Jairo Torres, 15-Diego Barbosa — 9-Julio Furch, 33-Julian Quinones
Atlas projected subs (10): 1-Jose Hernandez (GK), 13-Gaddi Aguirre (CB), 21-Anibal Chala (LB), 4-Jose Abella (RB), 19-Edyairth Ortega (CM), 6-Edgar Zaldivar (CDM), 11-Bryan Garnica (RW), 199-Jonathan Herrera (LW), 28-Christopher Trejo (CF), 22-Franco Troyansky (CF)
Leon vs. Atlas: Betting odds & prediction
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
These are two teams that have put together impressive defensive statistics over the course of the regular season and they can easily turn the first leg into a stalemate if both sides opt for an overly cautious approach.
But in its final home game of the season, Leon will not want to let an opportunity slip to grab a lead in the series. In front of its raucous crowd, La Fiera has scored in eight of 10 home games, including the last four. It put two goals past both Tigres and Puebla in the decisive second leg of its last two playoff series.
MORE: How Monday’s Champions League draw will work
Both coaches have had to field questions about their sides being too defensive-oriented, but Atlas has scored in seven of its 10 road matches, including the playoffs. So the ‘Both Teams To Score’ at +105 is a potentially attractive play, as is the ‘Race to 5 Corners’ for Leon (-105), which should be pouring it on for most of the game.
Leon’s preference is to attack down the wings and it reached five corner kicks in six of 10 home games. Atlas has also lost the corner kick battle on the road, 6-2 and 7-3, to start its two previous playoff series.
Leg 1 Picks: Both Teams to Score (+105) & Leon Race to 5 Corners (-105)
Leg 1 Prediction: Leon 2, Atlas 1
Leg 1 odds:
- Moneyline: Leon +115 / Draw +215 / Atlas +270
- Spread: Leon -0.5 (+115) / Atlas +0.5 (-150)
- O/U 2.5 total goals: Over +150 / Under -195
- Both Teams To Score: Yes +105 / No -135
Leg 2 odds:
- Moneyline (Regulation): Atlas +115 / Draw +205 / Leon +250
- Spread: Atlas -0.5 (+110) / Leon +0.5 (-155)
- O/U 2.5 total goals: Over +130 / Under -185
- Both Teams To Score: Yes -110 / No -125