América at Tigres tops Matchday 12 slate in Liga MX

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 30: An eagle, the mascot of America, flyes over the stadium during the 11th round match between America and Chivas as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at Azteca Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 30: An eagle, the mascot of America, flyes over the stadium during the 11th round match between America and Chivas as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at Azteca Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Matchday 12 offers four top-notch games – including América-Tigres – as well as the rare Puebla derby, an attractive weekend line-up that could see a new team on top of the table when all is said and done.

On Saturday, league-leading Cruz Azul hosts No. 4 Monterrey while No. 2 América pays a visit to the surging Tigres. Later that night the Chivas entertain the Pumas and Sunday boasts a Toluca-Pachuca contest.


Atlas at Santos

The Zorros just won their first game of the season last week (after starting 0-2-8, 1 goal for and 16 goals against) but Santos might be the best team in the league (the Guerreros nabbed the top spot in our most recent Power Rankings).

Defending champion Santos could find themselves atop the standings with a win and a Cruz Azul loss. Their attacking trio of Julio Furch, Jonathan Rodríguez and Brian Lozano is the most dangerous in the league. In addition, the green-and-white brigade boasts one of the league’s stingiest defenses.

It will be interesting to see if Atlas’ long-sought win will cause the Zorros to relax after having finally removed the stigma of being winless through 10 games. If they don’t come out ready for a real contest. Atlas could get knocked out early.

Necaxa at Veracruz

If the Rayos are going to win a road game this season, this is the one they have to get. The Tiburones got hammered at home by León last Friday but Necaxa is 0-0-5 when visiting this far this season (6 goals for, 12 goals against).

Sitting 15th in the standings the Rayos must know they are already auditioning for a roster spot next season. Coach Marcelo Michel needs to find players capable of playing the attacking style he prefers – sustained possession and quick-passing movement with numbers forward.

Both teams are simply playing out the string in Apertura 2018 although Veracruz is desperate for points in their battle with Lobos BUAP to avoid relegation.


Monterrey at Cruz Azul

The Cementeros return home to Estadio Azteca after being thoroughly outclassed by Pachuca last week. Cruz Azul must find some offensive rhythm to recover its swagger. However, the suspension of right fullback José Madueña and the continuing absence of Gerry Flores mean coach Pedro Caixinha must rely on a makeshift back line.

Injury-riddled Monterrey will try to exploit the Cruz Azul back four with speed on the wings. Dorlan Pabón and Jesús Gallardo can be expected to attack down the flanks but coach Diego Alonso is reduced to a conservative line-up due to the accumulation of injuries to his offense.

This game should feature a battle royal in midfield as Monterrey’s duo of Jonathan González and Celso Ortiz will be tasked with chasing Elías Hernández and Roberto Alvarado, the creators for Cruz Azul.

Monterrey’s strategy is to hold on another 3-4 weeks until key players return to fitness so a point on the road here would be seen as a positive. Cruz Azul is desperate to limit the damage from last week’s rout at the hands of the Tuzos and maintain its spot atop the table.

América at Tigres

América has had a tough week. A missed penalty kick on the last play of the SuperClásico denied the Aguilas a chance to move into first place. Since then, the pressure has been turned up on coach Miguel Herrera who has been criticized for throwing players under the bus and redirecting blame at every opportunity.

The Tigres have been strong at home but América is obliged to get a result. This could leave the visiting Águilas vulnerable to the counterattack just as Tigres winger Javier Aquino is back from injury row. In addition, Tigres striker André-Pierre Gignac is in fine form.

América goalie Agustín Marchesín better be at the top of his game because the hosts will test him early and often. Coach Herrera will have a choice in central defense as Edson Álvarez is back from red-card suspension. Herrera will also hope Cecilio Domínguez and Andrés Ibarguen can operate effectively on the flanks.

The Tigres are the second-stingiest defense in the league so the struggling América strike pairing of Oribe Peralta and Roger Martínez will be hard-pressed to end their slump.

This game might prove to be the best of the weekend and both teams will be eager to make a statement as the regular season winds down.

Pumas at Guadalajara

The Chivas have been ridiculed for celebrating the 1-1 tie in Estadio Azteca last week like it was a victory, but the critics fail to note that Guadalajara was without its entire starting midfield due to injury (Orbelín Pineda, Javier “El Chofis” López and Michael Pérez).

As it is, Guadalajara is even with 8th place Pachuca on points and has a favorable schedule so holding steady as its players return to health is an acceptable plan. But they better be ready for the Pumas who knocked the Chivas out of the Copa MX at the same Estadio Akron just 10 days ago.

UNAM was itself eliminated from the Copa on Wednesday (losing to León on penalty kicks) so the Pumas full attention is on the league now. Coach David Patiño will direct his men to press forward down the flanks (especially fullbacks Alan Mozo and Alan Mendoza) while hoping to take advantage of a suspect Chivas defense. However, Chivas goalie Raúl Gudiño was hailed as a hero after his spectacular performance in the SuperClásico (which earned him a call-up to the national team for its mid-October training camp).

The Chivas offense has struggled for service without its first-choice midfielders) but a healthy Alan Pulido should help. Expect Ángel Saldívar to line up next to Pulido.

Querétaro at Tijuana

The Gallos Blancos hit the road after slipping out of a playoff spot on goal differential. Meanwhile, the host Xolos saw their 3-game win streak end last week at Monterrey.

Both teams have struggled to find scoring despite displays of clever offensive skills. Tijuana, especially, must find a way to pile up points at home if they are to preserve playoff aspirations.

Querétaro has lost 2 of 3 while struggling to assert itself in midfield. Striker Camilo Sanvezzo has seemed more and more isolated up front.

Only lowly Atlas has fewer goals than Tijuana and the Xolos desperately need to find some kind of synergy in attack. Coach Diego Cocca has mixed and matched to no avail and it is time for someone to step up NOW. Miller Bolaños has not been consistent and Erick Torres has been wasteful, while Jesús Angulo has fallen out of favor.

Morelia at León

Both squads know that it is “Win or start planning for Clausura 2019” and León is coming off a thrilling win over UNAM in a Copa MX quarterfinal this week. Only a few short weeks ago, Morelia stood at No. 4 in the standings yet here they are in 14th place and in disarray.

León has shown promise in the four games (both league and Copa) since Ignacio Ambriz took over as coach. They will try to find Mauro Boselli in the box with Yairo Moreno and Luis Montes looking to operate in the space Boselli creates by occupying the central defenders.

Morelia must stop the bleeding on defense, giving up 9 goals in its past 4 games, including a stunning 3-1 loss to relegation-threatened Lobos BUAP.

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Pachuca at Toluca

Toluca suffered the upset of the season last week, stunned by winless Atlas. Skipper Rubens Sambueza got ejected in minute 57 for mouthing off to the ref so he will be absent against the surging Tuzos. Toluca has had trouble scoring lately but coach Hernán Cristante has not found the answer yet, with Alexis Vega being especially profligate in front of goal.

Pachuca pounded league-leading Cruz Azul last week then got past heavily favored Tigres in a Copa MX penalty shootout on Wednesday. Víctor Guzmán has been a beast for Pachuca in attack, creating for himself and four others. The national team selection assisted on all three Tuzos goals vs Cruz Azul. The key to the match might be how striker Leo Ulloa does in the middle of Toluca’s aggressive back line.

Lobos BUAP at Puebla

The rare Puebla derby will not draw much attention this weekend. The two state rivals have only played 3 times before and Lobos won last year at Estadio Cuauhtémoc. The Lobos have won 2 straight to end the sense of inevitability of their relegation.

A Lobos victory will move them above Veracruz in the race to avoid demotion but there’s a long way to go and coach Paco Palencia knows his team is still taking baby steps. Puebla still entertains playoff dreams but they can’t overlook Lobos and a second straight loss in the “Clásico de Puebla” would give their upstart rivals bragging rights.