Marquez's legal troubles, Valencia's return to Pachuca headline Week 4
It's the fourth week of action in Mexico's Torneo Apertura. Our writers look at some of the key storylines to follow this weekend.
1. How will Marquez, Atlas react vs. Club America?
This was always going to be one of the most inviting weekend games. Atlas may have lost 3-2 last weekend to Toluca, but Jose Guadalupe Cruz has put together a strong team this season, while Miguel Herrera's Club America is quickly becoming box office worthy, especially with Cecilio Dominguez hitting his stride. And with Club America's legion of fans in Guadalajara, games against Atlas in Estadio Jalisco usually have a special atmosphere.
But with what happened on Wednesday, the outlook and mood surrounding the game has changed. For those who have not heard, Atlas captain Rafa Marquez was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for alleged links -- which the 38-year-old denies -- to drug trafficking organizations, a news story that went global.
Will Marquez be at the game? Will Atlas fans show support? Will players come out and talk to the media afterwards to pledge allegiance for the captain? How will sponsors deal with the issue? What about the club itself and Liga MX? And how will motor mouth Herrera deal with questions when he is inevitably asked?
We won't get all the answers to those issues on Friday, but with the club, players and journalists all congregated in Estadio Jalisco, it'll be an interesting night.
To top it off, the winner of Atlas and Club America will go top of the Liga MX, at least temporarily, with both on six points from three games so far this 2017 Apertura. -- Tom Marshall
2. Valencia returns to Pachuca
After a rampant 5-0 win over Puebla, Tigres has picked up two consecutive 1-1 draws. Against Queretaro, striker Enner Valencia couldn't play due to suspension, but he'll be available for Saturday's match against Pachuca. For Valencia, it will be a return to a place that gave him his first opportunity in Liga MX. With Pachuca in the 2014 Clausura, he scored 18 goals, six of those came in the Liguilla.
Pachuca's start to the Apertura can be regarded as one of the main surprises in the league. The team's main unit has been ineffective, especially up front where Chileans Edson Puch and Angelo Sagal have been able to find themselves comfortable. Argentine striker Franco Jara will not be able to play against Tigres because of injury, while Keisuke Honda is scheduled to start full training this upcoming Monday, and his Liga MX debut will become a reality in Week 5.
Perhaps the problem in Pachuca is the fact that manager Diego Alonso still hasn't had all of his squad available for a game day, while Tigres has shown deficiencies in a midfield that doesn't count with a defensive midfielder of the level and stature of Guido Pizarro. Lucas Zelarayan has been phenomenal in the midfield, especially in the passing department, but not having a defensive shield in front of the center-backs has weakened Tigres' defense.
Nevertheless, the Monterrey side come into the match with a more developed XI, while Los Tuzos are still trying to find themselves. Losing a fourth league game in a row would pile on the problems for Alonso, who's aware of the highly talented team that he has but just hasn't been able to find the right XI. -- Nayib Moran