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Liga MX W2W4: Leon's playoff chase

Liga MX
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Liga MX W2W4: Cruz Azul under pressure vs. Veracruz, Vucetich returns to Queretaro

Cruz Azul are staggering in 2019 and have declined since they reached the Apertura final. A game vs. Veracruz should be a great tonic for what ails them.

Round eight of the 2019 Clausura is almost upon us with one new face on the manager's bench and other head coaches under fire. Here are three things to watch out for this weekend:

Can Veracruz provide a reprieve for struggling Cruz Azul?

When things are looking bad, a game against Veracruz is about as good as it gets for a Liga MX side. And for Cruz Azul, things have gradually declined since that final Apertura loss in December to Mexico City rival Club America.

There are different ways to measure a decline. One would be the attendance of just 1,612 on Tuesday evening for Cruz Azul's Copa MX game against second division side Alebrijes de Oaxaca; another would be the fact that La Maquina actually lost the game 1-0 and crashed out of the competition.

Cruz Azul is without a win in its last three Liga MX games and although it might be speculative and premature, stories about who could replace head coach Pedro Caixinha if he is fired have surfaced this week.

Enter Veracruz, Liga MX's worst club. Veracruz has been organized under Roberto Siboldi and has made things difficult for some bigger teams with a defense-first approach, but Los Tiburones Rojos haven't scored a goal all season, haven't won a Liga MX game since August -- a run of 17 matches -- and will finish last in the relegation table at the end of the Clausura, barring a miracle.

Cruz Azul simply needs a win on Friday in Estadio Luis "Pirata" Fuente. The players seem to have lacked confidence, Caixinha's head-on rhetoric demands a response and suddenly the club's shrewd buying in the past two offseasons is starting to be questioned.

Can Vucetich's magic lift Queretaro?

Vucetich is back in Liga MX and will be hoping to revive a point-less Queretaro.

"At this moment, to tell people we are going for the championship would be a lie. [We're here] to look to pick up results to get us out the situation the players are living through," was Victor Manuel Vucetich's honest assessment of his new team, Queretaro, after taking over from the dismissed Rafa Puente earlier in the week.

"Rey Midas" will certainly need some magic to lift a Gallos Blancos side still without a point all season. The first task for the experienced Vucetich will be to find a way to compensate for the sales of center-back Hiram Mier (to Chivas) and goalkeeper Tiago Volpi (Sao Paulo). They seemed to have haunted the club, both in real terms on the field and perhaps psychologically, in a group that made the playoffs in the Apertura.

On paper, Saturday's home game against Morelia looks like a winnable start for Vucetich on his return to the club. Monarcas coach Roberto Hernandez is also feeling the pressure, with the side on four points from seven games. A loss to Queretaro could well spell the end of his tenure, which would be unfortunate given that important players like Raul Ruidiaz (to Seattle) and Diego Valdes (to Santos Laguna) have left the club in recent transfer windows.

Will Macias, other Mexican strikers keep up at top of goals chart?

Macias is off to a hot start in 2019, with four goals in his first five games. Can he lead Leon to another win this weekend?

There's been a lot of talk about Leon striker Jose Juan Macias this week. Why did he leave Chivas? Why wasn't he given more chances by Jose Cardozo? How high is the buy-out clause in his loan deal from Chivas to Leon?

But after four goals so far this season, the 19-year-old Mexican striker has made it clear to ESPN that his ambitions lie beyond Liga MX. He said his goal is to play and win at clubs such as Barcelona and Real Madrid, in a bold and somewhat refreshing statement.

It's clear that Macias is a little bit different. The striker admitted that he doesn't come from a tough background, like so many Mexican players, and even the way he articulates himself makes him stand out. Macias is also the top Mexican goalscorer so far in Liga MX this Clausura, behind foreigners Rogelio Funes Mori, Brian Fernandez, Angel Mena, Andre-Pierre Gignac and Leo Ramos.

While Macias has made his mark in 2019 as one of the outstanding young Mexican talents in the league, Leon has made an claim to be a realistic contender for the title, picking up four straight wins while scoring 12 goals and conceding not one.

On Sunday, Leon travels to a Pumas team boosted by a clasico win last Sunday against Club America and while Macias might find it tough to score, he'll be betting on himself to continue his superb season..

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