Both teams in this year’s Apertura final are bidding to end long waits for a Liga MX title, but Pachuca look the better team and they can take the initiative in the first leg.
Who do Bettors Favor?
The best-rated online sportsbooks suggest that Pachuca, who finished fourth in the Apertura regular season are the narrow favorites with bettors to be victorious in the first leg, despite being the visitors. Toluca, who finished sixth, are a bigger price at +200 while the first leg draw is priced at +260.
|Toluca v Pachuca|
Liga MX Apertura Betting Briefing
The unusual structure of the Liga MX season means that there are two sets of playoffs and two separate competitions. The first is known as the Apertura and consists of a 17-round regular season followed by playoffs. The top four teams get a bye to the quarter-finals while teams ranked five through twelve play in the Reclassification round. The quarter-finals, semi-finals and final are all played on a two-leg basis.
It is important to bear in mind that the relatively short league stage means that form is a lot more volatile in Liga MX than it is in other tournaments and it is relatively rare that the team finishing top in the league goes on to win the championship.
Battling Toluca Aiming to Upset the Odds
Toluca has not won a championship since 2010, and after finishing 15th last time, they spent heavily ahead of their latest attempt to end their title drought.
They started strongly, winning four of their first five, but a poor run of form followed, and they went seven games without a win, before signing off in sixth position with a 4-1 win over lowly Queretaro.
That set up a Reclassification tie against Juarez, which they came through in style, and a quarter-final against third-placed Santos Laguna, which saw 10 goals over the two legs and a 6-4 win for Toluca. They followed that upset with an even more impressive achievement in the semi-finals when they beat the regular season top-ranked team Club America 3-2 on aggregate.
Free Scoring Pachuca Focused on Final
Having dominated the 2022 Clausura only to lose in the final to Atlas, Pachuca came into the Apertura as a leading contender, but they haven’t found it easy to reassert their dominance this time round.
They started well but a run of one win in six in the middle of the campaign left them way off the pace before a run of 20 points from their last nine ensured that they finished in the top four and avoided the Reclassification stage to go straight to the quarter-finals.
Guillermo Almada‘s side had to work hard to get past UANL in the last eight, eventually progressing thanks to their higher seeding, but they were more impressive against Monterrey in the semi-finals, winning 5-2 at home in the first leg, thanks to a hat-trick from the season’s top scorer Nicolas Ibanez.
They are now focused on the final as they aim to end a six-year wait for a title, having won the 2016 Clausura. Altogether, they have won six championships since 1999.
The recent head-to-head record between these teams is remarkably close. Toluca has won 12 of their last 34 matches, while Pachuca has won 13 and there have been nine draws.
Pachuca, however, has had the better of their recent games, winning three of the last four, including both of their games in 2022 so far. They won 3-0 in March, during the Clausura and then 4-1 in August – a game that featured ten minutes of injury time and a sending-off. Surprisingly, both Pachuca victories in 2022 came when they were the visiting team.
Liga MX Betting Pick
Toluca’s aggressive approach and rugged defensive attributes make them dangerous opponents, and they could still be improving. Against Club America, they were ruthless in taking advantage of their opponent’s mistakes and Pachuca will have to be wary throughout.
Still, it is clear that the visitors in this first leg are the stronger team. They scored more and conceded fewer than Toluca during the regular season and they also offer a level of tactical flexibility that the home side cannot match. Almada’s team has shown that they can play an expansive, attacking style and can quickly switch to a more compact, counter-attacking approach, as the situation demands.
This tactical flexibility is a big advantage in two-legged ties such as this one in which fortunes can swing back and forth between the two games. Perhaps most significant is the fact that Pachuca has won twice at the Estadio Nemesio Diez this year, by an aggregate score of 7-1. They have nothing to fear in this game, and they look undervalued in the market so they are the betting pick for the first leg.