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Leader Pumas host champion Tigres; Queretaro, Veracruz battle at bottom

In the first episode of 'Two on Tri', ESPN's Sebastian Salazar and Herculez Gomez talk about their fondest memories of the national team, recap World Cup heartbreaks and much more.

Leaders face first real test

Defending champion Tigres and current league leader Pumas will face off Sunday at the Estadio Olímpico. After four weeks, unbeaten Pumas has bounced back from a horrid Apertura 2017 campaign that featured three managers, 10 losses and a whole lot of finger pointing. The signing of Argentine playmaker Matias Alustiza to play up front with Chilean striker Nicolas Castillo has proven to be a stroke of genius.

Furthermore, the mystique surrounding Pumas' home ground has returned, with a convincing 3-1 win over Atlas and a hard-fought 0-0 draw against rivals Club America showing fans that David Patino's club will be tough on opponents going forward. However, many will argue this upcoming match is the first true test for the revamped universitarios; Tigres is just one point behind Pumas and, after laying an egg in the season opener vs. Puebla, Ricardo Ferretti's squad has dispelled any notion of a hangover following their most recent league title.

A Pumas win would be its first against Tigres since the Apertura 2015 final, a pyrrhic 4-1 win that saw the Monterrey side claim the title on penalty kicks after UNAM clawed back from a 3-0 deficit in the first leg. Since then, Tigres has won six of their next eight match-ups, including a 5-0 thrashing in the Apertura 2016 and a 3-0 victory in Mexico City during the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions' League campaign.

A win for Pumas -- or at least a strong showing resulting in a draw -- will not only serve as a massive internal statement, but also signal that they're early contenders to wrestle the championship away from Tigres later this spring. -- Eric Gomez

Andre-Pierre Gignac, left, scored for Tigres in its last game vs. Pumas, a 2-0 win in August 2017.

Tijuana look to steal points at Santos

Santos Laguna and Club Tijuana find themselves among the top eight in Liga MX; Xolos have yet to concede a goal, while Santos' Djaniny Tavares has already scored six goals after four matches.

For Santos, the addition of Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez has provided needed balance to a team that has three potent forwards in Djaniny, Jonathan Rodriguez and Julio Furch. Manager Roberto Siboldi has made it possible for the attacking trio to work nicely, alongside attacking midfielder Osvaldo Martinez.

Santos is a team that has a lot of players with vast experience and, with the support provided by Jose Juan Vazquez in the midfield, could become a Liga MX title contender in the coming weeks.

Tijuana have achieved scoreless draws in visits to Cruz Azul and Monterrey, neither of which are away games, and will hope to achieve something similar against Santos. If Victor Malcorra and Gustavo Bou give outstanding performances, it wouldn't be surprising to see Xolos leave Torreon with the three points. -- Nayib Moran

Queretaro, Veracruz meet in relegation showdown

The bottom two teams in the Liga MX relegation table meet in Estadio Corregidora on Saturday. Queretaro goes into the game 10 points clear of Veracruz in the relegation league. Given that, if Tiburones Rojos are going to survive, they simply have to win on Saturday.

Queretaro manager Luis Fernando Tena described the match as "the most important of the regular season" and Gallos Blancos would take a huge step toward safety with a victory. Tena has stated his desire to attack but Queretaro has been a defensive, counter-attacking team this season, averaging just 34.5 percent possession per game.

Queretaro has four points from four games of the 2018 Clausura, but has only scored twice. The only team to net fewer goals is Veracruz, who scored its solitary strike from a free kick in last weekend's 1-1 draw with Santos Laguna.

This game will probably not make for a classic in terms of quality, but there will be few with so much depending on the result. Of the other teams in relegation trouble, Atlas host Cruz Azul on Friday and Lobos BUAP play at Club America on Saturday. -- Tom Marshall


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