Mexican Primera, 2011 Apertura Liguilla Semifinals: UANL Tigres, Santos Laguna Heavily Favored

Santos Laguna celebrating after a goal. Santos takes on Monarcas Morelia in the Mexican Primera Liguilla playoffs on Wednesday, November 30, 2011.

The semifinals of the Mexican Primera Liguilla playoffs kick off on Wednesday, and there are two very clear favorites.

In the Mexican Primera Division, upsets happen a lot. The gap between the top of the table and bottom of the table teams was minimal in the 2011 Apertura, and for the fourth straight tournament, the team that entered the Liguilla playoffs was upset in the first round. The curse of the Superlider is still alive, but the upsets should end with the first round. The two higher seeded teams in the semifinals are clearly better than the two lower seeded teams. 

Cruz Azul and Chivas Guadalajara were the top seeds heading into Liguilla due to their league position, but it was obvious that their position was the product of Mexico's two-season system, meaning that one season is only 17 games long. Both teams were obviously flawed and never looked like champions during the league season. They were not demonstrably better than the two highest remaining seeds, Santos Laguna and UANL Tigres.

Santos has the league's best scoring record and Tigres have the league's best defensive record. They accomplished this while dealing with injuries and international call-ups. Santos even had a manager changed in the middle of the season; they have been the league's best team since Benjamin Galindo was hired. Cruz Azul and Chivas were flukes at the top of the table. Queretaro and Monarcas Morelia deserved to beat them, and the upsets were not that big of a shock.

These semifinals are a different story. Tigres made Pachuca look like they didn't even belong in the first division during their first round playoff tie. Santos never looked in danger against an excellent Jaguares de Chiapas side. They are considerably better than their opponents, and if they can avoid massive upsets, they will give us the best final that Mexico has seen in quite some time.

No. 7 Monarcas Morelia vs. No. 4 Santos Laguna

Game Date/Time: Wednesday, November 30, 9:30 pm ET

TV: Azteca

No. 8 Queretaro vs. No. 3 UANL Tigres

Game Date/Time: Thursday, December 1, 8:00 pm ET

TV: Telefutura

For more on the Liguilla playoffs and Mexican football in general, check out SB Nation's Mexican futbol blog FMF State Of Mind.

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