Tigres and America renew rivalry; Atlas and Lobos in relegation scrap
ESPN FC's Liga MX writers pick out what you need to watch for in another exciting weekend of action.
In-form Tigres and America renew hostilities
All the ingredients are there for this match to turn into the game of the weekend. It could be the first time that Andre-Pierre Gignac and Jeremy Menez go head-to-head in an event that has never been seen before: two France international footballers playing against each other in a Liga MX game.
But regardless of dueling compatriots, this is not just any Liga MX match in the first place; it's a growing rivalry between two clubs who aspire to win all the competitions they enter and, historically, often do. Tigres and America will likely not only be battling for the league championship this campaign but also the CONCACAF Champions League somewhere down the road.
Heading into this match, America appears to be in better shape, with an inspired Henry Martin netting five goals in five matches. But Tigres know that they have one of the best home unbeaten streaks in the entire league, which should give them confidence against the high-flying visitors.
The absence of Javier Aquino in Tigres' squad could hurt the team's playing style but it will be an immense opportunity for whomever takes his place in the starting XI.
Tigres vs. America will also be the type of match that Juan Carlos Osorio and his coaching staff will pay close attention to as they continue prepping their Mexico squad for March friendlies. Players like Hugo Ayala, Jurgen Damm, Martin, Oribe Peralta and Edson Alvarez will need to take advantage of every minute of action they see.
And the feeling before Saturday night's game is that it will be the first of several these two clubs play between now and May. After last season's Apertura liguilla semifinal battle, in which Tigres beat America 4-0 over two legs, America will have its first chance to get a statement win at El Volcan, along with a little revenge. -- Nayib Moran
Atlas-Lobos BUAP in relegation scrap
This might not be the fixture that stands out this weekend, in all honesty. With Tigres playing Club America -- a potential Clausura final -- and Landon Donovan potentially making his debut for Leon against Puebla, eyes and attention may very well be elsewhere. But if you had to pick a match with the potential to define the rest of the 2018 Clausura for two teams, you could make the argument that it'd be Lobos BUAP against Atlas on Saturday.
Lobos BUAP are the only team without a victory after five rounds of matches and are in real relegation trouble. A home game against 17th-place Atlas will be viewed by coach Rafa Puente as the ideal opportunity to earn a much-needed three points.
Should Lobos BUAP lose and Veracruz pick up a win at home on Saturday to a struggling Pachuca, then the university team from Puebla would sink into last place in the Liga MX relegation table -- one worked out on a points-per-game ratio.
For Atlas, there was a morale-boosting 2-1 victory over Cruz Azul last Friday in Estadio Jalisco, but new coach Ruben Omar Romano will want to build on that momentum and elevate the Rojinegros into the playoff conversation. On the negative side, a loss and Atlas will drop to last in the Liga MX table.
Key for the away team will be Englishman Ravel Morrison, who came on at half-time last weekend but was ill in the lead-up to the game. He'll likely be back among the starters and looking to build on the positive start he's made to 2018 in the heart of Atlas' midfield. -- Tom Marshall
Calm before the storm for Chivas?
The calm before the storm for managers in trouble usually begins with backing from the owners. Or backing from the players. Or, in rare cases, support from fan groups. Matias Almeyda has received patronage across the board but his numbers have been beyond mediocre in recent months. After following up on his Clausura 2017 title with one of the worst title defenses ever in the Apertura, Chivas has gotten off to a sad start in the current tournament with just four points in five games.
A home loss against a surprising Santos squad (eight points in five games) would make it harder for Almeyda to receive unanimous pats on the back and keep piling on the pressure that, to be fair, is mostly coming from the media at this point. In their last 35 league games, Chivas has just eight wins. Oswaldo Alanis remains on the bench following his contract issue, despite the mistakes the back line has been guilty of early in the season.
Meanwhile, Santos could be hyped for a statement game as Roberto Siboldi's team continues to impress following the removal of former coach Chepo de la Torre. Under Siboldi, Santos' offense has come alive and Djaniny Tavares looks like a bonafide contender for the Liga MX Golden Boot, scoring six of his team's seven goals so far this season. The key to the match will undoubtedly be whether Chivas' porous defense can contain the Cape Verde international after his fast start. -- Eric Gomez