Liga MX W2W4: Cruz Azul vs. Santos stands out amid weekend of clasicos
Matchweek 7 of the 2018-19 Liga MX Apertura promises to be one of the best yet, with both the Clasico Capitalino and Clasico Tapatio on the docket. Here are the games and storylines our Liga MX correspondents Tom Marshall, Cesar Hernandez and Eric Gomez are looking forward to this weekend in Mexico.
Cruz Azul vs. Santos Laguna
Cruz Azul will attempt to keep its undefeated start to the 2018 Apertura rolling at Santos Laguna on Sunday in what has been Liga MX's most difficult away trip of late.
Reigning champions Santos Laguna are 9-1-1 at home this calendar year and are third in the league table, having overcome the sale of three key players -- Carlos Izquierdoz, Nestor Araujo and Djaniny Tavares -- as well as the untimely departure of Robert Siboldi as head coach after just three matches of the season.
The Clasicos in Guadalajara and Mexico City will garner the headlines, but the final game of the weekend is the battle for the top spot in Liga MX and pits arguably the best two teams so far this Apertura.
Pedro Caixinha returns to the club where he won the 2015 Clausura, and he'll have to find a way to deal with Santos Laguna striker Julio Furch, who is in the form of his life with four goals and four assists already this season.
Cruz Azul will likely play mainly on the counterattack -- the team has a lower average possession per game than any team except Leon this Apertura -- using the pace of Elias Hernandez and Roberto Alvarado (or Edgar Mendez) down the wings when the ball is won back. It's a style Santos Laguna fans will know well from Caixinha's time at the club.
La Maquina's return to form and confidence has been the story of the Liga MX season so far, but Sunday will be Caixinha and Cruz Azul's biggest test yet. -- Tom Marshall
Club America vs. Pumas
When checking the league schedule, Liga MX fans will be pleased to see two rivalry matches set for Week 7. Once Friday night's Clasico Tapatio is over, all eyes and ears will then quickly focus on Saturday's much-anticipated Clasico Capitalino.
The Mexico City clash, which will feature rivals Club America and Pumas at the venerable Estadio Azteca, is one that shouldn't be missed. Following a strong start to the season, both sides in the top six have gradually stumbled in their last couple of games.
For America, questions are now beginning to hover over the squad that followed up last Saturday's 1-1 draw against Queretaro with a 2-0 loss to Leon during the midweek fixtures. After Wednesday's defeat, manager Miguel "Piojo" Herrera was so bothered by the result that he spent less than 30 seconds in the postgame press conference.
Across town, things haven't been much better for Pumas of late. A 1-0 away defeat by Monterrey and an ensuing 1-0 loss to Queretaro at home has hindered the initial progress made by manager David Patino.
Both sides have previously shown the capabilities of being a potential powerhouse this season, and with millions of eyes watching on Saturday, a high-profile comeback is now up for grabs for either one of the Mexico City rivals. -- Cesar Hernandez
Monterrey hosts Morelia in best non-rivalry match
Two of Liga MX's upper-echelon squads will clash at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer this weekend when Monterrey takes on Morelia in a game between the league's second-place and fourth-place teams. Morelia has just one win against the Rayados in their last nine head-to-head clashes dating back to 2015; therefore, Saturday's match beckons as a good opportunity to reverse the trend against a team that has dominated them of late.
Nico Sanchez of Monterrey remains one goal off the top scoring pace, too -- an oddity considering the Argentine is a defender. On the other side, Morelia's top scorer, Irven Avila, aims to make fans forget his fellow countryman Raul Ruidiaz since his exit earlier this year.
Coming off a game in which they drew 1-1 against Pachuca, the Michoacan side had just 44 percent of the ball at home. Against Monterrey, Morelia will likely need to play even more defensively, as the blue and whites have made it a point to dominate possession of the ball all season long. The scenario will likely create a situation for the visitors to counterattack, while Monterrey will try to suffocate the opposing defense behind their stifling local crowd.
Regardless of how Club America vs. Pumas plays out (at 8 p.m. ET), this game will come directly after. It promises to be a fantastic palate cleanser in a weekend chock full of gritty rivalry games. -- Eric Gomez