Two teams in the bottom half of the table, each with playoff aspirations, face off in Estadio Hidalgo determined to make a move.
Off to a dismal start after falling 2 points short of the Apertura 2018 postseason, Pachuca made a coaching change after only three games. Former Boca Juniors star striker Martín Palermo was brought in to replace Pako Ayestarán and he was on the sidelines for the Tuzos’ 2-1 Copa MX win over Tijuana on Wednesday.
UNAM finished in third place last season and was second in goals scored, but was seen as an overachiever. This season, the Pumas are 0-2-1 with only 3 goals scored and coach David Patiño was told the team would not be bringing in any transfers. That means he will be forced to rely on academy players more.
América 3, Pachuca 0
The Aguilas dismantled the Tuzos without breaking much of a sweat although Pachuca kept it close for a half. A defensive breakdown on a corner kick led to the first América goal in minute 16 and then the Tuzos collapsed right after halftime, conceding 2 goals in 4 minutes while failing to generate any dangerous scoring chances.
UNAM 2, Atlas 2
The Pumas were up 2-0 at the 31-minute mark, but failed to put the game away. Pablo Barrera (who provided the assist on the second goal) picked up a red card in minute 76 with the score 2-1, while the usually reliable Andrés Iniestra lost his man on both Atlas goals, with the equalizer coming in second half injury time.
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Martínez – Barreiro – Murillo – García
Guzmán – Hernández – Martínez – Aguirre
Dávila – Sosa
It is quite difficult to predict what kind of line-up coach Palermo will use in his first league match and it might be quite some time before his tactical preferences are understood. If healthy, the Tuzos roster presents him with plenty of options regardless of the formation he prefers. His early focus should be on the defense since the club gave up eight goals in two road games (winning its lone home game 3-0).
Mozo – Arribas – Quintana – Mendoza
Cabrera – Iniestra – Malcorra – Rodríguez
Mora – Figueroa
The Pumas sorely miss the injured striker Carlos González and Brian Figueroa will be called upon again. Also, captain Pablo Barrera is suspended after earning a red card last weekend. Coach Patiño will rely on a conservative approach and a low-scoring game, looking for the counterattack. Felipe Mora has been in form, but he will be tightly marked.
Pachuca: Midfielder Víctor Guzmán was a hot topic after scoring 4 goals against Necaxa in early November. However, he basically disappeared in the stretch run and the Tuzos missed out on the playoffs by scoring only once in the final two games of the season. Guzmán must regain his form – especially with a new coach – and demonstrate that he is essential.
UNAM: Striker Felipe Mora has scored 3 of the Pumas’ 5 goals this season (in both league and Cup matches) and he’ll be called upon to lead the way again against Pachuca.
Both teams are desperate for 3 points lest they dig too big of an early-season hole. As the home team, Pachuca will be anxious to please the home fans who will be closely watching how coach Palermo manages the team.