Pumas’ top-3 scoring offense takes on Cruz Azul’s stingy defense.
Pumas have been somewhat of a surprise to have made it this far in the Apertura still sitting in the top four spots for Liguilla. For all the doubting that fans did, myself included, about whether this team can keep other teams from scoring, Pumas is actually among some of the better defending teams, in terms of goals conceded. Their offense gets the headlines because of performances like the 5-3 slug-fest with Necaxa early in the year, or the Carlos Gonzalez hat-trick against Tigres, but don’t sleep on their defense.
Cruz Azul is nearly the opposite. With just 20 goals through 14 matches, they are among the lower scoring teams occupying a Liguilla spot, currently. But the Cruz Azul defense has been stiff, allowing just 11 goals on the year. Their offense is more dangerous than they sometimes get credit for, however. On their day, Elias Hernandez, Roberto Alvarado, Milton Caraglio and company can cause problems for opponents.
This is the first of a couple exciting match-ups on Sunday. You may want to tune in.
Pumas: W @ Tijuana 1-0
A relatively uneventful 1st half ended goal-less, with neither team generating a shot on target. Tijuana usually plays solid defense, especially at home, so it is understandable that offense was a bit harder to come by. Pumas dodged a bullet in the 74th minute of the match, when Juan Martin Lucero stepped up to the spot to take a penalty kick. Goalkeeper Alfredo Saldivar was able to make the save to keep the game scoreless heading into the final 15 minutes. Nearly 10 minutes later, Pumas found a goal in the form of Matias Alustiza. That would be all they needed to win 1-0, and head home with three points.
Cruz Azul: D v America 0-0
Though listed as the home team, this match had the feel a Clasico Joven should, with both sides being represented fairly equally in the stands. Neither side provided much excitement, with 14 total shots and just two on target combined between the two teams. Cruz Azul was unable to get any shots on goal for their part, although the did hit woodwork twice. Chatter on Twitter gave the “better looking team” title to Cruz Azul, despite Club America taking more of the typically looked-at stats. It was a solid match between two of the best teams in Liga MX, however, and America, after taking over 1st place, were likely more pleased with the goal-less draw than Cruz Azul.
Rosales – Arribas – Quintana – Mendoza
Barrera – Malcorra – Iniestra – Rodríguez
Mora – González
Diego Rosales replaced Alan Mozo in the lineup last week, after Mozo struggles against Tigres. Other than that, the lineup has been about as expected. There isn’t much reason to experiment at this point, however. What they have been doing is certainly working well for them.
Cruz Azul: 4-2-3-1
Maduena – Aguilar – Dominguez – Aldrete
Salas – Marcone
Mendez – Hernandez – Alvarado
Fresh off a more than solid 2-0 victory against Monterrey in the Copa MX, Cruz Azul should feel confident in their ability to hold defensively against a talented offensive opponent. With several changes to their normal line-up, Cruz Azul held Monterrey scoreless, despite conceding 57% possession, nine corner kicks, and nine total shots. With the confidence that comes with winning trophies, Cruz Azul could enjoy a nice day at Estadio Olimpico Universitario.
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Pumas: Felipe Mora
Carlos Gonzalez has had his moment in the 3-3 draw against Tigres, now it’s Pumas’ joint-top goalscorer to have his turn. If he can do so against Cruz Azul, he gets style points for difficulty.
Cruz Azul: Elias Hernandez
Hernandez didn’t have much of a game against America and the score ended up 0-0. Against Monterrey in the Copa MX, Hernandez was constantly showing up in big moments, scoring and assisting on the two goals. Cruz Azul needs him to lead offensively if they want to come away with better than a draw.
Things could go either way for Cruz Azul. Coming off winning some silverware, they could be in for a bit of a hangover and drop points, or they might use the momentum to overcome a Pumas team on a seven match unbeaten run. I’ve doubted Pumas enough this year to pick against them unless I’m absolutely certain, so I think the home side comes away victorious.