Match Preview: Pumas UNAM vs Cruz Azul, Liga MX Clausura Quarter Final

The second city rivalry in the Clausura quarter finals takes place in the Mexican capital as Cruz Azul take the short trip to the Estadio Universitario to face Pumas.
César Huerta  of Pumas UNAM controls the ball against Erik...
César Huerta of Pumas UNAM controls the ball against Erik... / Eyepix Group/GettyImages

Thursday is set for a day of city rivalries. The 21:10 CST fixture has Tigres face Monterrey in the Clásico del Norte. As for the earlier kickoff (19:00 CST) fans attention will be drawn to Mexico City as Pumas host Cruz Azul for an all-capital city affair.

Pumas needed to qualify for this stage of the competition via the play-in tournament as they faced Pachuca to take the 7th seed.

The game started in the worst possible way for Los Universitarios as Brazilian defender Nathan received two yellow cards in quick succession meaning they would play more than an hour with 10 men.

In favour of Pumas was the fact that Pachuca were in action only 48 hours prior in the CONCACAF Champions League, meaning that they had less time to rest and prepare for this game. The result of this was clear to see, as they were unable to break past a 10 men Pumas, with the game being decided via a penalty shootout, which Pumas would go on to win.

History of this Fixture

In terms of silverware, Cruz Azul edges the records. Los Azules has won the Liga MX title nine times, compared to Pumas' seven. If Azul can manage to win their tenth title this summer, they would join Toluca as Mexico's third most coveted club, behind Club América and Chivas Guadalajara. Their most recent success came in 2021, whilst it has been 13 years since Pumas lifted the title.

The rivalry between Cruz Azul and Pumas is often referred to as the "Clásico Joven" or "Clash of Youth" due to the relatively young age of both clubs compared to other traditional Mexican teams. The rivalry began to intensify in the 1970s and 1980s when both teams were dominant forces in Mexican football.

One of the most memorable encounters between Cruz Azul and Pumas took place in the final of the 1976-1977 season, where Cruz Azul defeated Pumas to win the league title. This victory marked the beginning of Cruz Azul's golden era, during which they won numerous league titles and established themselves as one of Mexico's top clubs.

Recent History

In the last five meetings between Pumas and Cruz Azul, Los Azules have come out on top three times. Between April 2022 and March 2023, Azul went unbeaten across four matches before Pumas ended that run in October 2023, beating their city rivals by an emphatic 4-1 scoreline.

The most recent fixture ended in a bore draw in what was described as one of Azuls 'worst matches' as told by Argentine manager Martín Anselmi.

The 2024 Clausura has been a remarkable turnaround for the boys in blue, who failed to qualify for the Apertura playoffs. Finishing third from bottom, only above Necaxa and Atlas, Azul recorded five wins from 17 games. However, this time around, Azul finished in 2nd place, only behind Club América on 33 points. Their defensive record was also the second-best in the league, leaking just 14 goals during the regular season.

As for Pumas, who reached the semi-final of the Apertura campaign before narrowly losing to Tigres, Los Universitarios will be hoping to go one step further and reach the final this time around.

There is reason for belief amongst the Azul hopefuls, but they will know that form goes out of the window when a derby like this comes around. Pumas are undefeated in their last six games and have been prepared for when it comes to playing either Cruz Azul or Club América, losing just once in the last 12 months against the two teams.

Team News

Pumas will be without Nathan for the first leg, serving his suspension for the sending off against Pachuca. The club will also be without Jose Galindo, the right back has played a supporting role this season but is expected to be unavailable until September.

Cruz Azul has a few more causes for concern as Carlos Vargas will not feature across the two legs due to a broken foot. Gabriel Fernández has been out since February with a knee injury and is not expected to return until October. A doubt for the game is Gonzalo Piovi who played 45 minutes against Toluca before suffering a broken collarbone.

If you would like to read the Match Previews for the other quarter-final games, make sure to visit below:

Club América vs Pachuca
Chivas vs Toluca
Tigres vs Monterrey