Clasico Capitalino, Pachuca vs. Lobos BUAP top weekend of Liga MX intrigue
It's early days yet in the Liga MX Clausura but that doesn't mean there aren't important games aplenty. Our Liga MX correspondents look at three of the most intriguing matchups of the weekend, headlined by one of Mexico's biggest rivalries.
Pachuca vs. Lobos BUAP
Saturday's game isn't one that immediately jumps off the page. But it is a game that feels more vital to both teams than most other Liga MX matches this weekend.
Pachuca's exemplary youth system and overall approach to running the club have been rightly heralded, but in terms of its first team, there hasn't been much to shout about since that CONCACAF Champions League win last April. Los Tuzos didn't make the playoffs in either the Apertura or Clausura last year and have started 2018 with a loss to Pumas, a tie against America and then a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Ascenso MX side Atletico San Luis in the Copa MX on Tuesday.
Coach Diego Alonso said after the midweek loss that the new recruits -- Sebastian Palacios, Dairon Mosquera, Kekuta Manneh and Walter Gonzalez -- will take time to settle in, although there is growing pressure for that to happen sooner rather than later. Los Tuzos have Tigres away next weekend, followed by Morelia at home, meaning a slip against Lobos BUAP would cause discontent in the fan base and increase the pressure on manager Diego Alonso.
For last-placed Lobos, nervousness must be setting in. Having 72 percent possession and dominating the game last weekend against Queretaro means little when you don't create and the opposition picks you off to win 2-0.
Lobos BUAP will only likely need around 15 points to guarantee survival this season, but a third consecutive loss this weekend would really make the alarm bells start to ring. -- Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup)
Pumas vs. America
Miguel "Piojo" Herrera has coached America in seven Clasico Capitalinos and has won all of them. The numbers are in America's favor as it prepares to visit Pumas at Ciudad Universitaria. But in the past two weeks, Pumas have recuperated their swagger.
In the offseason, there were a lot of doubts surrounding Pumas, but once the Clausura started, those doubts receded because of how well they've played in their first two leagues matches -- wins over Pachuca and Atlas prove it.
Led by Nicolas Castillo, who's already scored four goals this season, and an inspired Jesus Gallardo, Pumas have good chances of ending Herrera's impeccable Clasico Capitalino record.
As America is still waiting on Jeremy Menez and Andres Ibarguen to get match fit, Herrera is contemplating a change to his attack. The reports coming from Coapa are that Cecilio Dominguez will be in the starting XI and Darwin Quintero will be left on the bench.
Dominguez, who has been rarely used by Herrera recently, has scored at least one goal in each of his last two matches against Pumas. If there was ever an instant where Dominguez could rekindle his relationship with America's fanbase, that moment would be on Sunday at Estadio Olimpico Universitario.
In a season in which America will be fighting for the league and the CONCACAF Champions League titles, it will be imperative for players like Dominguez to contribute with good displays in both competitions.
Pumas' manager David Patino has reinstalled the fighting spirit in the squad, which invites one to think that Sunday's Clasico Capitalino will be a good way to start the day. -- Nayib Moran (@nayibmoran)
Cruz Azul vs. Leon
It's patently unlikely we'll see Landon Donovan even on the bench for this clash against Cruz Azul, but the newly-minted Leon signing will undoubtedly be the talk of the broadcast. The American legend is one of Liga MX's most noteworthy signings of late, and will draw heavy attention towards his new club amidst the regular media noise thrown at the Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara clubs.
For this game, however, Leon might regret not having Donovan at their disposition, as they'll be facing a team with increasing defensive efficiency. After struggling under Paco Jemez last season, Cruz Azul's defense has allowed just one goal over the first 180 minutes of the season, though an alternate squad did just give up three against Puebla in the Copa MX. Leon's heavy artillery up front, comprised of midfielders Elias Hernandez, Luis Montes, Andres Andrade and striker Mauro Boselli will thus have a tough test at the Estadio Azul this weekend.
On the other side, Pedro Caixinha's squad will look to build on their undefeated start with a red-hot Felipe Mora up front, assisted by former Chivas winger Carlos Fierro and Spanish midfield general Edgar Mendez. After several seasons of flop signings and a revolving door of managers, Cruz Azul is once again giving their fans reasons to be excited about the potential of their team going forward. -- Eric Gomez (@EricGomez86)