Following a rest after the end of the season due to the international break, the Mexican Primera Division's Liguilla playoffs for the 2011 Apertura kick off on Saturday night. Top seed Chivas Guadalajara play in the first match on the schedule against Queretaro and will attempt to break the 'Superlider curse', while Sunday's Pachuca-Jaguares fixture is perhaps the best of the round. As a reminder, in the first round in Liguilla, the tiebreaker is seed. The ties cannot go to extra time. In the event of an aggregate draw, the higher seed advances.
SB Nation's Mexican futbol blog FMF State of Mind has offered up their take on all of the matches.
No. 1 Chivas Guadalajara vs. No. 8 Queretaro
Saturday, 6:00 pm ET, Univision
Chivas are the heavy favorites, but they'll be without their No. 1 goalkeeper and up against a fantastic striker in Carlos Bueno.
The loss of Michel is a huge blow to Chivas, as his play in goal is a primary contributor to the team's impressive defensive play over the past year. Without Michel backing them up, Hector Reynoso, Jonny Magallon and the rest of the Chivas backline will have to significantly raise their level of play. For Queretaro to keep the infamous "Superlider Curse" alive, they will need a strong showing from leading scorer Carlos Bueno.
No. 2 Cruz Azul vs. No. 7 Monarcas Morelia
Saturday, 8:00 pm ET, Azteca America
This tie is a rematch of a great Liguilla tie from the 2011 Clausura that ended in a brawl. Cruz Azul are the favorites, but Morelia are in fantastic form.
With this season's constant struggles on offense, Cruz Azul's success has been thanks mainly to their impressive defensive play. A deep playoff run, though, will require more productive action up front. For Morelia's part, they look to maintain their excellent late season form that ended in a final week push into the Liguilla.
No. 3 UANL Tigres vs. No. 6 Pachuca
Sunday, 5:00 pm ET, Telefutura
Tigres have an incredibly deep team and a solid defense, but Pachuca's attack is a formidable one.
Tigres conceded just thirteen goals in seventeen matches this season. One of their seven shutouts of the Apertura was a 5-0 win over their first round opponents, Pachuca. This robust defense, along with an always imposing homefield advantage at Estadio Universitaro, makes Tigres one of the favorites for this year's title. Pachuca will hang their hopes for the upset on a red-hot Enrique Esqueda. Ending the season with two goals scored in each of his last two matches, Esqueda looks to continue that form through the Liguilla first round.
No. 4 Santos Laguna vs. No. 5 Jaguares Chiapas
Sunday, 7:00 pm ET, Azteca America
These two sides have two fantastic attacks and are almost inseparable. Both are also missing key players through suspension. Look out for Oribe Peralta and Jackson Martinez, both of whom have become fixtures in their national teams.
With the top two scoring offenses in the league, Santos Laguna and Jaguares Chiapas promise a highly entertaining opening round series. Santos have resurrected themselves over the second half of the season under new manager Benjamin Galindo, and feature a dynamic attack led by Oribe Peralta. Jaguares bring an equally imposing offense to the table, with the Colombian duo Jackson Martinez and Luis Gabriel Rey leading the way up front.
We'll have individual previews of each match, as well as live coverage of each match, in our Mexican Primera 2011 Apertura, Liguilla Quarterfinals StoryStream. For more on the Mexican Primera and everything Mexican footy, including El Tri, check out SB Nation's Mexican futbol blog FMF State Of Mind.