Liga MX: Last Minute Week 3 Pre-match Thoughts

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - JULY 28: Gerardo Espinoza, Head Coach of Atlas during the second round match between Club America and Atlas as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at Azteca Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - JULY 28: Gerardo Espinoza, Head Coach of Atlas during the second round match between Club America and Atlas as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at Azteca Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

As the matches begin, catch up on what to watch for and a little of what to expect!

Cruz Azul – Tigres

This weekend’s four-star match-up  in Liga MX is the Tigres’ visit to Estadio Azteca to take on Cruz Azul Saturday night. Sunday’s showdown at High Noon in Toluca will see the struggling Chivas do battle with the disappointing Diablos Rojos as Week 3 kicks off tonight.

Aiming to win their fourth consecutive Apertura title, the powerhouse Tigres arrive in Mexico City well-rested while the Cementeros had a midweek Copa MX match. Neither team has conceded a goal through two matches and fans could be in for a tactical treat.

Cruz Azul’s defense has been bolstered by the addition of midfielder Iván Marcone and central defender Pablo Aguilar. Expect them to keep a close eye on Tigres’ striker André-Pierre Gignac who has scored in both league matches thus far.

The real battle could be on the flanks where Tigres wingers Javier Aquino and Jurgen Damm will test Cruz Azul’s fullbacks by stretching the field to create space in front of net for Gignac and Lucas Zelarayán.

The Cementeros will be challenged by the Tigres defensive discipline in front of goalie Nahuel Guzmán while nursing injuries along its front line. Andrés Rentería, Milton Caraglio and Ángel Mena are all doubtful for Saturday. Martín Cauteruccio and Elías Hernández will be called on to carry the load for Pedro Caixinha’s men and Spaniard Édgar Méndez could be called upon to partner with Caute-gol.

Toluca – Chivas

In Toluca, last season’s runner-up (in both the Liguilla and the Copa) must shake off the doldrums and prepare for a desperate Chivas team. The Diablos Rojos have looked shaky on defense and profligate on offense. Midfield general Rubens Sambueza has not been up to the standard he set last season as MVP of the league.

The return of forward Enrique Triverio has not been as smooth as hoped. The acquisition of midfielder William da Silva (from América) has yet to pay dividends but Luis “Quick” Mendoza has provided a spark in attack.

Guadalajara coach José Cardozo will likely tinker with his line-up after a 0-0-2 start to the season. His preferred wide 4-4-2 formation has not kept its width during games and that has clogged the middle for striker Alan Pulido. It would not be a surprise to see José de Jesús Godínez start-up front and Walter Gael Montoya get the nod in midfield.

Another loss could actually ratchet up the pressure on Chivas management to fire Cardozo.

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Veracruz – Morelia

Last place Veracruz hosts a Monarcas squad still seeking its identity after losing star striker Raúl Ruiidiaz in the offseason. 20-year-old Paraguayan Sebastián Ferreria is the stand-in but Morelia has struggled to create much offense. Two of the team’s four goals have come from the penalty spot but this could be the game that allows Morelia to find an offensive rhythm.

Veracruz faces a season-long relegation battle and it can’t afford to lose points at home, but the Tiburones looked very vulnerable last week at Lobos Buap and have yet to score a goal this season.

Atlas – UNAM

The league-leading Pumas are playing a free-wheeling style that has produced 7 goals in two matches. Pablo Barrera looks renewed on the right flank and the new strike tandem of Felipe Mora (acquired from Cruz Azul) and Carlos Rodríguez (ex-Necaxa) have paid dividends. Coach David Patiño has shown confidence in his young fullbacks Alan Mozo and Alan Mendoza and they each scored in last week’s rout of Necaxa.

Atlas looks to be in for a long season under new coach Gerardo Espinoza. The Zorros hope Andrés Andrade and Clifford Aboagye can develop chemistry quickly to pump up the offense.

Necaxa – Lobos BUAP

The Rayos must patch up a defense that was strafed for 5 goals last week by Pumas while refining their quick-passing attack. Necaxa has looked good with possession up front, especially striker Víctor Dávila, but too often they have looked out of sorts when they transition back on defense.

Lobos BUAP continue their revival after buying their way out of demotion. New general manager Manuel Lapuente brought in Francisco Palencia as manager but he faces a difficult task if he hopes to improve on the two victories the Lobos recorded last season.

Pachuca – America

Pachuca and new coach Francisco Ayestarán face a tough challenge after losing a pair of 1-0 games to start the season and América will show no mercy. Skipper Erick Gutiérrez must step up in midfield and help prop up the attack which has underperformed. Goalie Alfonso Blanco has also been a disappointment thus far.

The Águilas get Cecilio Domínguez back from injury and the elusive winger should test the Pachuca defense. Striker Oribe Peralta has not scored since March 3 and he needs to get back on track since América’s forwards have not delivered this far this season. Midfielder Guido Rodríguez scored a brace against Atlas last week and defender Emiliano Aguilera match that two-goal performance in the Cup match vs Veracruz.

Monterrey – Querétaro

The Rayados have posted two shutout victories to start the season but you get the impression they are still trying to get familiar with the new faces. Midfielders Rodolfo Pizarro and Jesús Gallardo are already making significant contributions and new goalie Marcelo Barovero has made a stingy defense even tougher.

Querétaro will continue to use defense-first tactics but they will be forced to absorb constant pressure from Monterrey’s offensive-minded squad. This could be a chess match played mostly in the Gallos Blancos half of the field.

Santos – Puebla

Defending champion Santos might struggle to make the playoffs this season after losing the league’s top scorer (Djaniny Tavares) and captain Carlos Izquierdoz but the remainder of the squad is still potent. J

ulio Furch, Bryan Lozano and Johan Rodríguez will be called upon to rediscover their form in attack for Santos but Puebla’s tactical discipline poses a difficult task. The Camoteros shut down Toluca last week and cagey manager Enrique “Ojitos” Meza will try to ramp up midfield pressure and test young Santos keeper Carlos Acevedo.

Tijuana – León

The Xolos looked strong in a season-opening home win against Chivas and their new artificial turf complements their rapid pace of play. “El Cubo” Torres is still trying to find his place in his new team but he could soon establish a formidable pairing with Juan Martín Lucero in attack with Ignacio Rivero providing offense from midfield.

León has struggled to put any offense together but Héctor Mascorro’s performance in Wednesday’s Cup match should get the 21-year-old some playing time.