Pumas need a win, Caixinha revisits Santos, America vs. Tijuana: W2W4
ESPN FC's Liga MX writers pick out what you need to watch for in another exciting weekend of action.
Pumas must make a statement vs. Chivas
Sunday's game in Estadio Olimpico Universitario offers Pumas an opportunity to reassert their playoff hopes, and perhaps their title credentials, following a 4-1 loss to Tijuana last weekend and a 2-1 defeat to Veracruz the weekend before.
Pumas have certainly improved on last season's last-place finish in Liga MX, but the jury remains out on just where the team is at compared to the rest of the field, especially in defense.
Chivas reportedly took a charter back from the Dominican Republic -- where they defeated minnows Cibao FC in CONCACAF Champions League action -- in the early hours of Thursday morning to get as many training sessions in as possible ahead of the Pumas game. Owner Jorge Vergara has stressed the absolute necessity of picking up the three points against Pumas in a game that boasts more than a hint of rivalry.
There is no doubt that Pumas are the favorites. Chivas have taken two points from the last 15 available in Liga MX action and are in desperate need of a win. A loss would mean Chivas require at least 19 points from their last eight games in the Clausura to have any chance of making the playoffs. A win and 16 points from eight doesn't sound so unrealistic, even if next weekend will bring first-place Club America to Guadalajara for the Clasico Nacional.
The margins for error are much wider for David Patino's Pumas, although a third consecutive defeat would get the debate rolling about whether the early season form of the Mexico City club was simply a temporary, and slightly misleading, uplift. -- Tom Marshall
Caixinha returns to Santos
On Sunday, Pedro Caixinha will return to a place he called home for two years. In Torreon, he progressively climbed the ranks as one of Liga MX's best managers. His time at Santos Laguna helped him make a name for himself, and the possibilities of him landing at a historic club like Cruz Azul or Club America were high, especially after he led Santos to a cup and league title.
However, now he's in charge of Cruz Azul and is having trouble adjusting to his new challenge. La Maquina only has one win after eight matches, and its upcoming visit to Santos appears like an insurmountable challenge because Los Guerreros have not lost any of their home games this season. So far this year, Santos' best Clausura showings have been at Estadio Corona.
Caixinha's Cruz Azul is currently playing lackluster football while Santos has one of the best offenses in the league, led by Djaniny Tavares, who has scored 10 goals in eight matches.
For Caixinha, his return to Torreon will have a special significance, and it's likely he will receive a warm reception from Santos' faithful. The irony in all of this is that Caixinha is desperate for his Cruz Azul to get a second league win, and if that happens, the mood from the Santos crowd might shift. -- Nayib Moran
Can Club America keep flying high vs. stingy Tijuana?
Miguel Herrera hosts his former team at the Estadio Azteca this weekend, with his Club America side soaring in first place. His opponent, Tijuana, is coming off a huge 4-1 win against Pumas last weekend, making this game one of the most anticipated for Matchday 9. Both teams will be on short rest as they faced Central American opposition in the middle of the week due to the CONCACAF Champions League.
Thus, Herrera has said he'll rotate his players to maintain fatigue levels at a minimum. Xolos' Diego Cocca likely does not have that luxury considering that Herrera's roster depth is far greater. After retooling Club America's attack over the winter, Herrera has been splitting minutes for players like Oribe Peralta, Jeremy Menez, Henry Martin, Andres Ibarguen and Cecilio Dominguez, who scored a brace on Wednesday against Saprissa in the CCL. Domestically, Club America's high-flying attack accounts for 15 goals, the league's high watermark after eight games.
Compare that to Tijuana's seven goals, next-to-last among the 18 teams in Liga MX. Thus, the match between both of these teams can be catalogued as a clash of opposing strengths: Despite their stuttering attack, Xolos has only allowed five goals all season, the best mark so far in Mexico's top division. -- Eric Gomez