Liga MX: Guadalajara derby kicks off attractive Week 7 slate

ZAPOPAN, MEXICO - AUGUST 21: Fans of Chivas cheer on their team in the stands during the 6th round match between Chivas and Necaxa as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at Akron Stadium on August 21, 2018 in Zapopan, Mexico. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images)
ZAPOPAN, MEXICO - AUGUST 21: Fans of Chivas cheer on their team in the stands during the 6th round match between Chivas and Necaxa as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at Akron Stadium on August 21, 2018 in Zapopan, Mexico. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images) /

As the midway point of the season approaches, Week 7 brings us two attractive derbies (one in Guadalajara, the other in Mexico City) and a possible Finals preview as well as a second Top 4 match-up. It should make for extremely entertaining soccer for Liga MX fans.


Guadalajara at Atlas

The 147th edition of the Clásico Tapatío kicks off the weekend and is the only match of the night, meaning all eyes will be on Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara where the big question will be: Can Atlas find a way to score a goal this season?

The host Zorros are the league’s lone winless team and the only club yet to score a goal. Getting off the schneid against their bitter cross-town rivals would … well, you couldn’t ask for anything better than that. Atlas has won the past two Guadalajara derbies but that hardly carries any momentum.

The Chivas come in to their former home stadium on a two-game win streak, winning at their new home – Estadio Akron – for the first time since October. A win here could set Guadalajara up for a playoff push and go a long way to protect coach José Cardozo’s job security … for the time being.

Midfield sparkplug “Chofis” López has been key for the Chivas and winger Isaac Brizuela has been rounding into shape. If striker Ángel Saldívar can demonstrate more efficiency, Guadalajara could prove to be a team to reckoned with, come playoff time.


UNAM at América

The Clásico Capitalino is the marquee match of the weekend even though the two Mexico City clubs have hit a rough patch. Estadio Azteca will be in full throat, though hopefully the spotlight will be what happens on the pitch and not what happens in the stands (or outside the stadium).

Despite their collective struggles, América (#5) and UNAM (#6) are still near the top of the table. Still, the visiting Pumas have failed to score in three games after coming out of the gate like gangbusters and the Águilas have dropped 4 points since their impressive 3-0 manhandling of Monterrey.

UNAM must rediscover its scoring touch and that means Carlos González and Felipe Mora must find space to operate, while Kevin Escamilla and Víctor Malcorra must make their presence felt in midfield.

América likes to hit on the counter so that means midfielders Guido Rodríguez and Matheus Uribe must be more effective, cutting short UNAM possessions and affording Renato Ibarra, Diego Lainez and/or Cecilio Domínguez the freedom to get forward with the ball. Up front, Andrés Ibarguen and Roger Martínez have just one goal between them and that must change.

Morelia at Monterrey

This game pits two of the league’s top four teams and it should be a tactician’s delight. The host Rayados field one of the league’s most attack-minded line-ups while the Monarcas have demonstrated great discipline and coordination between their lines.

Monterrey has underwhelmed thus far, yet it has only a single blemish – the 3-0 rout at the hands of América – and sits in 2nd place. Eight teams have scored more goals than the Rayados despite flashy performances from Dorlan Pabón, Avilés Hurtado and Rodolfo Pizarro. Even so, the club’s leading scorer is defender Nico Sánchez with 4.

Morelia is in 4th place but has not impressed on the road (a 2-2 tie at Veracruz being the low point). Still, the Monarcas work well as a team and the tactical wizardry displayed by coach Roberto Hernández has been a difference-maker. Look for a conservative approach as Morelia might flood the center of the pitch with 5 midfielders in an effort to choke off Monterrey’s passing lanes.

Tigres at Necaxa

Necaxa has come back to earth after a pleasing start to the season and they face a Tigres team that came roaring to life last week after a 3-game losing streak.

As André-Pierre Gignac goes, so go the Tigres. With that knowledge, Necaxa defenders Ventura Alvarado and Leobardo López will pay extra attention to the French striker. That should open the flanks for Javier Aquino and Juergen Damm, while Lucas Zelarayán or Edu Vargas could find space behind the Rayos midfielders who have struggled to get back on defense in an organized fashion.

Necaxa midfielder Mati Fernández has missed the past two game and his absence has been notable. The once free-flowing offense has bogged down with ill-advised solo efforts and poor passing that has led to odd-man breaks against Necaxa’s overmatched defense.

Puebla at Pachuca

Pachuca has climbed out of the cellar with a win and two ties since a horrendous opening three weeks. The Tuzos still lack scoring punch, but they have rediscovered the youthful energy that has characterized their play in recent years.

Puebla has been inconsistent, but with occasional flair from their attacking trident of Lucas Cavallini, Alejandro Chumacero and Francisco Acuña. At times, goalie Nicolás Vikonis has been under siege though he has held up remarkably well.

Pachuca will look to skipper Erick Gutiérrez to provide leadership and if Víctor Guzmán and Erick Aguirre link up well, the Tucos could continue their rise in the standings.


Cruz Azul at Santos

Unbeaten Cruz Azul visits the defending champs in what could conceivably be the Finals match-up when all is said and done.

The league-leading Cementeros have demonstrated defensive toughness (led by Pablo Aguilar and Julio César Domínguez in central defense with Iván Marcone providing cover from his holding midfielder role). Up front, Elías Hernández and Roberto Alvarado have proven to be a handful on the flanks though forwards Édgar Méndez, Martín Cauteruccio and Milton Caraglio have wasted chances too frequently.

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Third-place Santos boasts an explosive three-headed attack led by Julio Furch and Johnathan Rodríguez up front and Brian Lozano playing well off of both strikers. Furch leads the league with 4 assists and he has gashed defenses with his one-touch lay-offs and wall passes.

Cruz Azul’s defense will get a great test at Estadio Corona, so Jesús Corona will have to be on his toes in between the pipes. Santos’ top-choice goalie Jonathan Orozco was rested for the midweek game after straining a shoulder last weekend. If he misses out, the Cementeros must make the most of any scoring opportunities that come their way.

León at Toluca

León has just 1 point from three road games and they must change that to maintain playoff dreams. The Esmeraldas outplayed favored América at home on Wednesday and if they can replicate that performance, they could steal points at Estadio Nemesio Díez.

Toluca has been bitten by the injury bug and midfield strongman Antonio Ríos limped off against Cruz Azul on Wednesday. “Quick” Mendoza also picked up a knock, but he finished the game. The Diablos are already without skipper Rubens Sambueza so it’s time for bench players to step up.

Willian da Silva and Luis Quiñones played well in attacking midfield positions against the Cementeros and they will have to produce in order to minimize León possessions. The Diablos back line of Fernando Tobio and Omar González have looked vulnerable at times, so somebody will have to replace the hole in front of them left by Ríos’ expected absence.

Luis Montés and Mauro Boselli were a two-man wrecking crew against América and those two vets will be called upon to do the same for León this weekend. Fullback Fernando Navarro has been a strong contributor on offense, but the Esmeraldas would benefit from more consistent play from Maxi Cerato and Yairo Moreno on the flanks.

Tijuana at Veracruz

The Xolos absolutely must come away from the port city with 3 points if they wish to return to the postseason. Veracruz is in a shambles, giving up a league-worst 2.6 goals per game.

Tijuana has struggled to finish off offensive possessions and that has forced coach Diego Cocca to mix-and-match his attackers to little effect. Somebody must step up this weekend.

The Tiburones can only hope to stop the bleeding, outscored 6-0 the past two weeks while federal tax authorities investigate the team’s finances, a gigantic distraction.

Lobos BUAP at Querétaro

Only Atlas has fewer goals than these two teams but Querétaro is on the edge of playoff qualification by virtue of two 1-0 wins and a scoreless draw (against Atlas).

The Lobos also have a scoreless draw against Atlas but the Puebla club has also lost points by conceding two game-winning goals in injury time.