Fresh off their thrilling win over defeending champion América, the league-leading Rayados take on another Mexico City club this weekend.
After their controversial win over Club America last weekend, Monterrey will be looking to launch a winning streak beginning with Sunday’s game against a lackluster – and winless – Pumas side.
It will be an extremely difficult task for new Pumas coach Bruno Marioni who took over after management fired David Patiño last Sunday. Marioni – a legendary player for UNAM who starred on their back-to-back title-winning squads in 2004 – guided the Pumas to a 2-1 win over Atlas in a midweek Copa MX match.
Monterrey made additional news this week by acquiring Team Mexico fullback Miguel Layun from Spain’s Villarreal, but the 30-year-old native of Veracruz will watch this game from a box seat. The Rayados are really starting to look like a title favorite and will view this game as a must-win to proclaim their championship intentions.
Monterrey 3, Club America 2
In a hugely controversial game featuring everything from soft penalties, four red cards and controversial VAR decisions, Monterrey emerged with a huge sense of triumph. They managed to gift America their first defeat in 5 months and it could be a watershed moment for them in their quest to hoist the trophy this season.
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Pachuca 1, Pumas 0
Pumas suffered another defeat (0-2-2 on the season), this time against a Pachuca side that has been far from positive so far in the Clausura. This result does not lend much hope for them as they sought to repeat last season’s third-place finish despite not being very active in the winter transfer market.
Monterrey: Midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro is expected to make his Clausura 2019 debut after recovering from a leg injury incurred during the playoffs in December. He will likely start in the spot left vacant by Avilés Hurtado who was red-carded against América last week. If fully recovered, the shifty midfielder will put pressure on the Pumas defense and will look to spring open the red-hot Rogelio Funes Mori.
Pumas: Midfielder Juan Iturbe has to start showing his quality, something he has so far failed to do in Mexico. A good performance against Monterrey could help boost his confidence and his standing within Liga MX. Actually, the entire Pumas defense – including keeper Alfredo Saldívar – needs to be playing at their absolute best in order to get anything from this game.
Anything other than a comfortable and convincing win for Monterrey is unacceptable. The Rayados will be after all 3 points and if they fall short, questions about consistency may be asked with regard to their title credentials. Considering their quality performance against America, if they play with the same intensity and efficiency, they’ll have no trouble against the Pumas.