Chivas must stop Tigres' momentum to win Liga MX title

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The Guadalajara side can't let the first leg bleed into Sunday's decider after Andre-Pierre Gignac's late double brought his side back into the final

Coaches often tell players two-legged aggregate series are like "180-minute matches." Chivas coach Matias Almeyda will want it to be as clear as possible. Thursday was Thursday. Sunday is Sunday.

If the series had continued after 90 minutes, Chivas almost certainly would've lost. The tide was turning, and Andre-Pierre Gignac's double not only put Tigres level after a dream start for the Guadalajara side but had Tigres feeling confident and inspired.

How does Chivas turn that around and make sure that the late surge from Tigres don't overturn the good things that happened for Almeyda's side in the first half? It starts with reminding themselves of a few fundamental truths.

First, they're really good at home. They've avoided defeat in the last 13 matches at Estadio Chivas, a streak that stretches back to a 1-0 loss to Tijuana on Jan. 21. Second, the team was doing things well in the first hour, maybe longer, of the first leg before Gignac struck and made the aggregate 2-2 heading into Sunday's decider.

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"We played a really good game. At the end, we lost our concentration and that allowed them to react but the draw gives us an advantage," Chivas midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro told reporters. "I think now they're the ones who should be worried because at home in front of our fans we're going to close things out really well."

Pizarro himself will be a big part of that. His contributions since returning from injury go beyond the two goals he's scored in the Liguilla, though both were critical. He's also been able to create opportunities for Alan Pulido, who broke a long scoreless spell early in the first leg after a fortuitous deflection fell to him and let him take advantage of an error by Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman. Reports are that Angel Zaldivar, who had to be substituted after coming on in the second leg of the semifinals, is at full fitness as well.

Andre Pierre Gignac Damian Tigres

While it was Chivas' midfield control that was the key to the success in the first leg, with Orbelin Pineda, Jose Juan Vazquez and Michael Perez forcing Tigres to try long balls more easily defended, expect a more aggressive look in the second leg if Almeyda believes he has the threats to keep Tigres' back line occupied.

Almeyda said after the match that he will make tactical changes for the second leg but ultimately taking Tigres out of the style they want to play will make the difference.

"Tigres weren't able to get inside and none of their players played freely or comfortably, so we're going to try to make them uncomfortable again and force our style of play to be able to win the trophy we all want so badly," he said.

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Yet while Chivas are taking plenty of inspiration from having the home crowd behind them and being able to say they got their tactics right for the first match, the fact remains that Tigres have the same boost and, perhaps irrationally, got the bigger jolt from the first leg after their electric comeback. While Gignac is still looking for his first career goal at Estadio Chivas, he's in stunning form and generally excels in the Liguilla. Stopping him from getting on the board would be an accomplishment for the home side, especially after they came so close to doing so in the first leg before totally falling apart.

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Tigres got an injury boost of their own with center back Hugo Ayala fit to travel and likely to start next to Juninho at the core of a defensive unit that had previous gone more than 20 matches in a row without conceding twice before Chivas' impressive first half at Guzman's expense.

The visitors will look to follow the script Chivas did, to withstand any early, inspired moments the home side has, to make sure the match is played at their pace and to hit early to keep the momentum moving in their favor. The team able to capture that moments and make sure they're able to play in their preferred style will end up lifting the trophy while the other will be left to look back and wonder how the tide swung in the other direction.

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