Most teams should be shaking off the summer rust as the season’s first month is rapidly coming to a close.
Cream usually rises to the top and, if that’s the case, it’s time for struggling title contenders to start making their moves. Monterrey is one such title contender, but the Rayados’ season had more of the look – and smell – of sour milk before last week’s all-important win over León.
Monterrey visits Morelia to kick off the Liga MX’s Friday night triple-header and the Xolos-Pumas match should provide a very pleasing nightcap. In between, lowly Veracruz hosts Atlas.
Monterrey faces third road test in four weeks
Last season, the Rayados finished in third place before its offense went missing in action in the playoffs, scoring just twice in four games and bowing out to bitter rivals Tigres in the semifinals.
Monterrey was inactive during the summer transfer window until early this month when Dutch striker Vincent Janssen was acquired from Tottenham. But Janssen was rarely productive with the Spurs and missed much of the 2018-19 season after foot surgery. If he is to contribute to the Rayados offense, it will be a few weeks down the road.
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Morelia also lost its first two games of the season before a stunning win at Pachuca last week. The Monarcas’ aspirations are more modest – make the playoffs. At the very least, coach Javier Torrente is expected to improve upon last season’s 16th-place finish.
Xolos to protect home turf
Tijuana won six of its eight home games last season while UNAM was among the league’s worst away from home. In fact, the Pumas have already won as many road games this season as they did during the entire Clausura 2019 – 1.
The Xolos definitely feel like they can improve upon last season’s 8th-place finish, and the addition of striker Camilo Sanvezzo should offset the loss of Gustavo Bou, Tijuana’s top scorer last season.
UNAM opened the Apertura 2019 with two straight wins and deserved a better result last week against the defending champion Tigres (a 1-0 home loss). The Pumas find themselves in 4th place but must earn points on the road to truly be considered a contender.
The artificial turf at Estadio Caliente typically makes for a fast-paced game. That should not worry the Pumas too much since they like to play off the counter and attack with speed down the flanks. With two teams that enjoy playing vertically, this could be the best game of the entire weekend.
Same old Tiburones?
Veracruz kept its place in the Liga MX by paying a 120 million-peso buy-in fee, but that meant management had no funds for player acquisitions. And that means the league’s worst team did very little to get better.
The Tiburones have given up the most goals in the league – yet they have played one fewer game than 16 other teams. Last week’s 7-0 embarrassment at Necaxa does not bode well for a team that has not won a match since Aug. 25, 2018.
Atlas juggled its roster over the summer, particularly on the defensive side. The Zorros got shut-outs in their first two games, winning both by 1-0 scores. If new acquisition Javier Correa can get comfortable up front, Atlas might become a danger going forward.
The Zorros will again be without four impact players who are with Mexico’s Under-22 team at the Pan Am Games in Lima. But they should not miss them against Veracruz.