Cruz Azul: José Madueña, Julio César Domínguez, Pablo Aguilar, Igor Lichnovsky, Adrián Aldrete
Pedro Caixinha prefers the 4-man line with fullbacks equipped to push forward without neglecting defensive responsibilities. Domínguez and Aguilar are a formidable pair in the center, wonderful at communication and positioning. Both are strong tacklers and decent passers coming out of the back. Aldrete is a veteran and plays like it: reliable, fit and tactically sound. He also takes free kicks and corners, while working well with Roberto Alvarado and Elías Hernández in midfield. He is capable of overlapping runs, shoots well from distance and is effective with his centering passes. Madueña is the weak link at right back. He lost his starting job early on, then reclaimed it after Gerry Flores got injured and has shown flashes of talent since. He can be sloppy with the ball but hustles to stay in position. Lichnovsky comes in as a third central defender late on to protect leads and has gotten an occasional start (often, this means Domínguez slides over to fullback, replacing Madueña). They play a deep-lying line, try to be patient with possession and the Cementero offense occasionally starts from the back.
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América: Paul Aguilar, Emanuel Aguilera, Bruno Valdez, Luis Reyez, Jorge Sánchez, Edson Álvarez
Aguilar, 32, is a grizzled veteran at right back, tough as nails and enjoying a resurgence. He is dangerous going forward, can offer crossing passes and gets into the box for shots. He works better on a 5-man back line because he can get caught too far forward. Aguilera and Valdez are studs in the center, occasionally joined by Álvarez in a 3-man central defense (Álvarez missed Sunday’s game vs Pumas due to injury). Aguilera and Valdez are physical defenders, strong in the air and beasts on set pieces at the other end. Speed and quickness can beat them, but their deep-lying midfielders can cover up holes. Reyes is a veteran left back who is effective moving forward while the precocious Sánchez, 21, is clever with the ball at his feet when he joins the offense, but a bit undisciplined on defense. The Aguilas defense is paid to knock opponents off the ball, cut off centering passes and get the ball up field quickly.