Liga MX: Club America meets Cruz Azul in battle of 1 v 2

PACHUCA, MEXICO - AUGUST 04: Diego Lainez of America celebrates with teammate Joe Corona after scoring the first goal of his team with Joe Corona during the third round match between Pachuca and Club America as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at Hidalgo Stadium on August 4, 2018 in Pachuca, Mexico. (Photo by Jam Media/Getty Images)
PACHUCA, MEXICO - AUGUST 04: Diego Lainez of America celebrates with teammate Joe Corona after scoring the first goal of his team with Joe Corona during the third round match between Pachuca and Club America as part of the Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX at Hidalgo Stadium on August 4, 2018 in Pachuca, Mexico. (Photo by Jam Media/Getty Images) /
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One week after overtaking their spot in the Liga MX table, Club America faces off against Cruz Azul.

All alone atop the Liga MX table, Club America finds themselves just ahead of the previous holders of the top spot. This was bound to be a must-see match even before Cruz Azul was shocked by Queretaro 0-2 last week, but now Club America has a chance to extend their lead, rather than simply overtake their Estadio Azteca roommates.

It all gets underway Saturday October 27 at 9pm CDT. Estadio Azteca will be electric and this is sure to be one of the bigger Clásico Joven match-ups in recent memory.

Last Match

Club America: W v Xolos 3-0

Las Aguilas welcomed Tijuana to the Azteca early when Ema Aguilera continued his fine form with a goal just six minutes into the match. This forced Xolos to somewhat abandon their defensive posture early, and allowed Club America to open them up. Just before halftime, Andres Ibarguen found the back of the net and Las Aguilas went into the dressing room up 2-0 on the 2nd lowest scoring team in Liga MX. America spent most of the 2nd half content to give Xolos possession of the ball, ceding 53% to Tijuana in the final 45 minutes of the match. In the 59th minute, though, Diego Lainez took a pass from Renato Ibarra and fired a rocket from outside the box into the goal, just under the cross-bar.

That 3-0 lead would stand, with Xolos goal-scoring woes continuing. America now enters the most difficult stretch of their schedule, with Cruz Azul, Santos Laguna, and Toluca looming.

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Cruz Azul: L @ Queretaro 0-2

Cruz Azul put in 33 crosses on the night and connected on just six of them. They forced Queretaro keeper Tiago Volpi to make four saves on the night, though that number looks especially low considering they took 17 total shots. The defense held the usually punch-less Queretaro attack at bay until the 88th minute when they allowed Camilo Sanvezzo to score and then gave up a 2nd goal to Marcel Ruiz less than a minute later. Los Gallos Blancos were able to rely on their stingy defense the rest of the match and send Cruz Azul to their third loss in five matches.

Predicted Lineups

Club America: 4-2-3-1

Marchesin
Aguilar – Valdez – Aguilera – Sanchez
Rodriguez – Uribe
Renato – Lainez – Ibarrguen
Martinez

Working against a stingy Xolos defense, America used this same lineup to break them down and organize their midfield to play both directions. I wouldn’t mind seeing the same approach against Cruz Azul. Diego Lainez was phenomenal in the 3-0 win against Tijuana, and deserves a chance to show that same form against Los Cemeteros. Many are expecting Oribe Peralta to take his spot, though, given the nature of the Clásico Joven and Peralta’s experience. Were it me calling the shots, though, Lainez would start against this Cruz Azul team, who is on short rest. Guido Rodriguez will need to be at his usual best against a daunting Cruz Azul attack. Having Mateus Uribe playing beside him should provide some help. The play of Bruno Valdez and Ema Aguilera has been too good to take either of the pitch, but it is nice to know Edson Alvarez is waiting on the bench if things get dicey.

Cruz Azul: 4-3-3

Corona
Maduena – Aguilar – Dominguez – Aldrete
Baca – Marcone – Alvarado
Mendez – Cauteruccio – Hernandez

Roberto Alvarado, Elias Hernandez, Martin Cauteruccio and Pablo Aguilar are all key players for Cruz Azul and all played the full match against Leon on Wednesday in the Copa MX. This leaves them with just 3 days to rest up for this match against America. It will be interesting to see how Pedro Caixinha lines Los Cementeros up for this Clásico Joven, as a result. Could we see Igor Lichnovsky getting significant minutes? It will depend on how Caixinha wants to play this one. If they decide to hunker down and counter, they might be content to let their usuals handle things on short rest.

Key Players

Club America: Roger Martinez. We’re still waiting on his breakout match. The Colombian striker has been okay, but America didn’t pay what they paid for him to be okay. He doesn’t even have to score loads of goals, necessarily. He simply needs to get a couple and become a serious threat that will draw defensive attention and open up the America attack. If he can be threatening against Cruz Azul, America will roll to victory.

Cruz Azul: Elias HernandezThe Cruz Azul attack has been lacking since they dropped four goals on poor Veracruz back on September 1. A large part of that is Elias Hernandez scoring just one goal since then; a penalty against Monterrey. Hernandez is the club’s leading goal-scorer in this Apertura with five goals. He’ll need to find his goal scoring form, or at least generate offense from his teammates. The 30-year-old winger has just one assist since the Veracruz beat-down, as well.

Prediction

In front of a 50/50 crowd, in a Clásico Joven, in Liga MX, football gets unpredictable. All we can go off of is recent form and gut-feel. America has 13 points from their last five matches, whereas Cruz Azul has just six. Cruz Azul has five goals in their last five matches, Club America has 12. Las Aguilas are clearly on the rise, while Los Cemeteros are clearly sputtering. On short rest, in a home match that will feel less homey than normal, I don’t know how Cruz Azul pulls this one out. I may be ensuring America loses, because that’s how this seems to work oftentimes, but I think America takes this one. The score will be close, but I’m not sure the match really will be.

Cruz Azul 1 – America 2