Liga MX W2W4 - America, Santos Laguna, Cruz Azul vie for first place
A battered Estadio Azteca hosts Club America and Tijuana
You don't expect to talk about the state of a pitch as the main storyline for a mid-season Liga MX game. Unfortunately, the horrendous work done on the Estadio Azteca pitch, spearheaded by a Costa Rican company last summer, has yielded more than its share of controversy for producing subpar conditions this season. Just when it looked like the pitch had recovered, a Shakira concert earlier this week held on the stadium grass has left it reeling once more.
A rush job to help playing conditions will be tested this Saturday, when Miguel Herrera hosts his former club Tijuana in Mexico City as they look to cement a playoff position moving forward. Cecilio Dominguez, the talented Paraguay winger, looks to be unavailable for the home side coming back from the international break, boosting the chances that 18-year-old starlet Diego Lainez might get a chance to go from the start. Following a strong showing against Costa Rica, striker Henry Martin also looks to be in line to receive significant minutes ahead of either Oribe Peralta or Roger Martinez.
On the Tijuana side, manager Diego Cocca has said the America match is the first of "five finals" that the team needs to get through in order to have a chance at making the playoffs.
Matches in the past between both of these teams have been exceedingly close -- the last three have been draws -- with Club America not being able to grab all three points against Tijuana at home since 2016. -- Eric Gomez
Three-way fight for top of the table
Cruz Azul's position at the top of the league table might soon be over. Although La Maquina currently has an impressive tally of 26 points after 12 weeks, two teams sit only two points behind: Club America and Santos Laguna. If Cruz Azul fails to garner an away win against Queretaro on Saturday afternoon, a spot at the very top would then immediately be up for grabs.
Later on Saturday, Club America could gain some ground when Las Aguilas host Club Tijuana at the Estadio Azteca. In spite of the frequent number of upsets seen in nearly every Liga MX weekend -- and the unexpected factor of recent Shakira concerts damaging the Azteca pitch -- all signs point to a win for Club America over Xolos.
Of course, we can't forget Santos Laguna either, who kick off against Pachuca at the same time as the clash at the Azteca. If a couple of results over the weekend work in their favor, Los Guerreros can easily sneak into the No. 1 spot of the table with a win. Keeping in mind that Santos Laguna striker Julio Furch is on an incredible run of form with nine goals and four assists, it's fairly easy to predict a win for his side this weekend.
Either way, be sure to keep an eye on the three teams who will be fighting for first place this Saturday. -- Cesar Hernandez
Veracruz seeks to break winless streak vs. fellow bottom dweller Atlas
No teams have looked more bleak or listless than Veracruz or Atlas this season. In fact, if you were to combine their point tallies, they would still sit in a lackluster position at 14th in the league table.
For better or worse, both squads are set to face-off this Friday night.
Looking at Veracruz, there is now a golden opportunity to end a five-game winless streak that has held the club down at a dismal spot in 17th place. As the team with the worst defense in the league, Los Tiburones Rojos should fully capitalize on an Atlas roster that has only found the back of the net four times in 12 games.
However, Atlas has also shown some recent glimpses of magic. Back in Week 11, Los Rojinegros stunned Mexican soccer fans after clinching a 2-0 home win over Toluca. Despite the fact that the result remains as Atlas' lone victory in the Apertura, it could still help revive the 18th-placed club that has shown recent signs of progress in the attack.
There's no way of missing out on Atlas vs Veracruz on Friday night. If you're hoping to watch an unpredictable game between two hapless and highly flawed sides -- which will also see the debut of video-assisted referree in league play -- that will be eager to exploit one another, look no further. -- Hernandez