Atlas gets first crack at defending champion América as Matchday 2 unfolds, while the Cruz Azul-Chivas match gets top billing.
América was permitted to postpone its Matchday 1 game to continue celebrating the Liga MX title it won in December so the Aguilas make their Clausura 2019 debut on Friday night at Estadio Jalisco against Atlas.
Coach Miguel Herrera will have to rely on a makeshift line-up in attack, probably going with Henry Martin and Oribe Peralta and the hold-out Cecilio Domínguez at left wing. América was on the verge of selling Domínguez to an Argentine club, but retained him after selling Diego Lainez to Real Betis and learning that Andrés Ibarguen will be out at least a month after undergoing an emergency appendectomy.
Striker Roger Martínez and midfielder Mateus Uribe are out injured, but the Aguilas have such a deep bench, nobody expects them to have any trouble handling Atlas, last season’s 17th-place team. The Zorros did open their season last week with a 2-1 road win over depleted Querétaro, but Estadio Jalisco will probably feature a sizeable number of América fans.
The weekend’s opening match will take place at Estadio Luis “Pirata” Fuente in Veracruz as the Tiburones and Lobos BUAP square off in a match that will have relegation implications. Along with Puebla, these two teams are the most likely to be banished to Ascenso MX after the Clausura 2019, although Atlas and Querétaro are also sweating demotion concerns.
The Lobos opened their season with a surprise 2-0 victory over Santos and general manager Manuel Lapuente is confident the Lobos will create some separation by defeating Veracruz. “(Coach) Palencia and his assistants have done a great job molding the roster into a solid group,” he said. Lapuente also explained his confidence by pointing at the team’s new acquisitions, including defenders Leiton Jiménez (from Atlas) and Gustavo Velazquez (from Paraguay’s Nacional).
Cruz Azul hosts Guadalajara Saturday night knowing it can’t afford to drop a point at home in a key earl-season match. The Cementeros looked lethargic in a 1-1 tie at Puebla in the Clausura 2019 opener and then lost midfield pit bull Iván Marcone when Boca Juniors swooped in with fistfuls of cash.
More from Viva Liga MX
- Guillermo Ochoa is out 4-6 weeks
- The Clásico Regiomontano is Heating Up
- Pumas: In Search of Regaining a Top Spot
- Why the United States Is Set to Overtake Mexico on the World Stage
- Erick Gutierrez is out once again
In addition, their top playmaker – Elías Hernández – limped off the practice field earlier this week. Coach Pedro Caixinha has several new toys to work into his line-up but knows he must find the right chemistry quickly.
The Chivas were in complete disarray in mid-December, leaving the FIFA Club World Cup red-faces after losing both its matches. But Guadalajara has undergone a complete makeover and the newly rebuilt Chivas dispatched Tijuana quite easily on Matchday 1 and then defeated lower division Cimarrones of Sonora 2-1 in a Cup match on Tuesday.
Coach José Cardozo knows he probably has to get his Chivas back to the playoffs to keep his job and he hopes his players will be up to the challenge.
This game also features the first time Cruz Azul midfielder Orbelín Pineda will play against his old mates after he was traded to the Cementeros after the Club World Cup.
Rayos raise the curtain
Necaxa makes its first appearance in the Clausura 2019 after its game vs América was moved to early March. The Rayos faded down the stretch last season and ownership hired a new coach to lead them out of the bottom of the table.
Memo Vázquez takes over the reins at Necaxa and management has brought in some veterans for him. Former Pumas striker Eduardo Herrera was acquired from Santos and he is likely to see some action in the point of attack for the Rayos against UNAM. Herrera scored 3 minutes into his team debut with Necaxa, firing home early in the Rayos 2-0 Copa MX win at Atlético San Luis.
UNAM finished third last season, but most pundits thought the Pumas overachieved. As if to prove the critics right, the Pumas struggled to a scoreless draw at home against Veracruz last week. UNAM was the third-leading offense during the Apertura 2018, and Necaxa was the third-worst defense so the Pumas will be looking to find the net at Aguascalientes’ Estadio Victoria on Saturday night.
The rest of the Liga MX slate
In other Matchday 2 games, Monterrey hosts León, Querétaro visits Pachuca, the Tigres travel to Tijuana, Toluca hosts Puebla and Santos Laguna has its home opener against Morelia.
Monterrey crushed Pachuca 5-0 last week and more offensive fireworks could be on display at Estadio BBVA Bancomer.
Pachuca was the victim of Monterrey’s outburst and Querétaro is learning how to live without stand-out goalie Tiago Volpi. This could be a lackluster game.
The Tigres settled for a 2-2 draw last week and desperately want to avoid the sluggish start they experienced last season. The Xolos could be the perfect opponent for the Tigres to get on track.
Toluca looked strong during its 3-1 road win over Morelia while Puebla bottled up Cruz Azul. This could be a game requiring a tactical adjustment for someone to come away with 3 points.
Morelia and Santos come into their Sunday game on downers after disappointing losses last weekend.