Liga MX W2W4: Apertura final rematch, Chivas-Xolos headline Week 3
MEXICO CITY -- Last season's thrilling final between America and Tigres will have another take, but this time around what's at stake is a first win in the 2017 Clausura for both clubs.
Here's five things to watch for this weekend in Liga MX:
1. Apertura final rematch not lacking intensity
According to Club America's manager Ricardo La Volpe, America was the superior side throughout the 210 minutes played against Tigres in December's two-legged 2016 Apertura final, however in the end it was Tigres who lifted the trophy. La Volpe's world is different to the rest of Liga MX coaches. In his eyes losing a game on penalties doesn't count as a loss, yet during his time as Las Aguilas' boss, the team has lost three matches via the penalty spot (vs. Chivas in Copa MX semis, vs. Colombia's Atletico Nacional in the FIFA Club World Cup and vs. Tigres in the Liga MX final).
Even though Las Aguilas lost their first match of the season against Toluca, calmness presides at America's training grounds. At Tigres, the sentiments are different; there are clear tones of anxiety flowing around Tigres' training facilities after the defending champions started the season with a loss and draw. Winless streaks at San Nicolas de los Garza are rare, and the players see Saturday's game (8 p.m. ET) as an excellent opportunity to get their first win of 2017.
Although newcomer Cecilio Dominguez, who has been handed the team's No.10 jersey, will be ready to play against Tigres, La Volpe will likely wait to give him playing time until the second half. Because both teams will be searching for their first Clausura win, the intensity could be equally as electrifying as last season's final.
2. Santos' high Clausura hopes face tough contest in Morelia
"The three are different," Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre began to explain to ESPN FC why Santos' first two Clausura starting line-ups have included forwards Jonathan Rodriguez, Julio Furch and Djaniny Tavares. "Jonathan [Rodriguez] has always played close to a striker, who's more fixed inside the box. Djaniny has always played in the wing, although he does like to appear in the center.
"The playing characteristics of these three have to come in unison with the rest of their teammates. They have to equally collaborate with the rest in defensive and attacking duties."
Having Rodriguez, Djaniny and Furch in a starting XI immediately presents Santos' winning intentions. Making this trio work will be one of De la Torre's principal tasks as he works to take
Los Guerreros back to the top of Liga MX's standings.
As they seek to extend their early Clausura unbeaten start, their visit to Morelia will be not be easy as with Pablo Marini leading the pack, Los Monarcas are the only team that has yet to concede a goal in the Clausura.
3. Paco Jemez continues his Liga MX crash course as Cruz Azul hosts Monterrey
After last Sunday's match between Cruz Azul and Pumas, many of Cruz Azul's players dropped to the ground like bowling pins after a strike. Since Jemez's arrival to La Maquina, the team's work rate has dramatically increased, and despite heading into Saturday's match against Monterrey (6 p.m. ET) after back-to-back losses in league and Cup play, the feeling in Cruz Azul's camp is of a complete support towards Jemez's coaching ways.
However it cannot go unnoticed that Los Cementeros' next opponent is none other than Antonio "Turco" Mohamed's Monterrey, a team that possesses an attacking prowess that few Mexican clubs can match. One of the main concerns that has been brought up by many analysts that follow Cruz Azul's day to day is how much defensive stability the team will have with Jemez at the helm. Even though the team hasn't suffered a major defeat with the Spaniard, it will be interesting to see how the team fares against teams that know how to take advantage of their counterattacking chances.
It's likely that Mohamed's Monterrey will look for ways to score on Cruz Azul via the counter. Jemez's adapting period to Liga MX is still in full effect.
4. Chivas sets its eyes on best goalscoring season under Almeyda
Not long ago, Chivas' manager Matias Almeyda would point out during postgame press conferences that his team would need to take more than ten shots to score once, while opponents would only take two shots and put one of those into the back of net. Goalscoring droughts have been one of the main causes for Chivas' recent short Liguilla runs, and one of the main objectives this season is to change their luck in that department.
The early Clausura days suggest a significant improvement because against Pumas, the team's only two shots on goal were put in the back of the net, and against Monterrey, Chivas netted twice off four shots on goal. Against Tijuana, Almeyda will hope to continue what has been a stupendous scoring rate.
5. Versus Pumas, "Gullit" Pena looks to extend scoring streak to three straight matches
Carlos "Gullit" Pena couldn't handle the pressure of being one of the main players in Chivas' squad. However, his return to Leon has reawakened his football. Pena enters the match against Pumas after scoring the winning goal at Necaxa and scoring against Morelia in Leon's 3-0 win in Cup play.
The likelihood of head coach Javier Torrente getting the best out of Pena is high as the first weeks of the Clausura suggest.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.