Liga MX W2W4: Cruz Azul-Club America clash in Clasico Joven, VAR experiment continues
13 Liga MX matchdays down, four to go.
With the end of the regular season --- and the playoffs --- inching closer, let's take a look at three things you should keep an eye on in the next round of matches of the 2018 Apertura.
Stakes are high in the Clasico Joven
Without a doubt, Saturday night's Clasico Joven between Cruz Azul and Club America will be one of the biggest games of the season. This weekend's matchup of the two Mexico City teams is not only a crosstown rivalry, but also a highly-anticipated clash that will feature the current top two teams in the Liga MX standings.
Looking at Cruz Azul, there is an immense amount of pride on the line for a squad that has shown signs of weakness in recent weeks. After kicking off the season with an eight-game unbeaten run, Cruz Azul have lost three of their last five matches. Cruz Azul easily has the talent to bounce back, but if the second-place team wishes to push away any of the growing skepticism that is beginning to surround them, a win this weekend would do plenty to hush any detractors.
Of course, that's much easier said than done against a squad that recently took the No. 1 position away from Los Cementeros. Following a 3-0 win over Tijuana last Saturday, Club America has now stolen the top spot in the league table away from Cruz Azul. With 27 points in hand, Las Aguilas are one point ahead of their crosstown rivals.
In a match that will likely have the energy and intensity of a playoff game, Saturday's Clasico Joven is one that shouldn't be missed.
The (likely) start of Tigres' trademark late-season run
Liga MX is predictably unpredictable. In a league where shocking results and bizarre upsets are the norm, it's normal to expect the unexpected.
All that said, one reliable constant remains: Tigres.
Over the last few years, no Liga MX team has looked as dominant as the Monterrey-based giants. In the previous six seasons, Tigres have lifted the title three times and also finished as the runner-up once. Regardless of a poor start to a couple of those tournaments, manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti has always found a way to get his team to finish strong. If these trends continue, it wouldn't be much of a surprise if the 7th-placed Tigres truly start to pick up their pace in the near future.
With fairly straightforward matches left against Lobos BUAP, Morelia, Puebla and Chivas, Ferretti's highly talented squad should have no issue gaining at least three wins over the next few weeks. Coupled with the fact that striker Andre-Pierre Gignac is beginning to find his goalscoring rhythm as well, we might see Tigres at their very best this Saturday against Lobos BUAP.
Second round of VAR testing
In case you missed the news, VAR (Video Assistant Referee) is currently being tested in Mexico's first division. With the hopes of being approved for the technology by the IFAB (International Football Association Board), Liga MX will resume VAR testing this weekend after debuting it in Week 13.
The decision to bring in the technology is another step forward for a league that is attempting to modernize and catch up with the rest of the soccer world. Although problematic practices like the Pacto de Caballeros and the Liga MX draft still exist, the utilization of VAR should be perceived as a light at the end of the tunnel for those who want to see progress and change in Mexico.
Of course, as noticed elsewhere in other competitions, there is always the potential for more debate and quarreling through the usage of VAR itself. Despite the lack of issues in the first round of testing, the technology will inevitably add in another layer of controversy.
Whether that happens this weekend, or if we see another tranquil round of testing without any drama, remains to be seen.