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Liga MX W2W4: Derby day for America, Pumas; Leon, Cruz Azul need a win

Herculez Gomez gives his early impressions of Miguel Herrera at Club America.
Herculez Gomez believes the cards are stacked against Mexican players who want to make the jump to MLS.

It's the third week of action in Mexico's Torneo Apertura. Our writers look at some of the key storylines.

1. America host Pumas on derby day

America fans tend to deny the Mexico City derby against Pumas is a Clasico in the true sense of the word, but that doesn't take anything away from what is one of the iconic matches in the Liga MX calendar. This is two of the "big four" and two institutions -- Televisa (America) and UNAM (Pumas) -- that go about running their clubs in very different ways.

The clubs also come into Saturday's game in differing circumstances. America is undergoing a renovation under Miguel Herrera; the return to fitness of Cecilio Dominguez, Miguel Samudio and Paul Aguilar has boosted Las Aguilas and they put on a fine performance last weekend in ending Pachuca's 29-game undefeated streak in league games at home.

Pumas, on the other hand, have been coached by former player Francisco Palencia for just over a year and lost 2-1 to Atlas last Saturday, failing to test the opposition very often in Estadio Jalisco. Fans are restless and want to see more, especially against arch-rival America.

Expect America to take the initiative and Pumas -- the team with most long passes attempted so far this Apertura, according to InStat -- to look for a more balanced, counter-attacking approach. The away side aren't short of quality and will test America, especially if striker Nico Castillo can find space.

Palencia needs a win, while Herrera will want the three points to show his America ship is picking up steam and heading in the right direction. -- Tom Marshall

Miguel Herrera and America will look to make a run at the title in his second season back in Mexico City.
Club America has made a promising start under new coach Miguel Herrera.

2. Tijuana hosts miserly Monterrey defense

It's early, but after two losses to start the Eduardo Coudet era, this is a huge game for Tijuana. A boost was attained after the Copa MX result in which Paul Arriola notched the first goal in three games, but hosting Monterrey in Week 3 will prove to be a more difficult test. A third consecutive loss will start to put pressure on the new regime, not a good sign for a team that finished top of the table in both the Apertura 2016 and the Clausura 2017.

Monterrey is a tough visitor for any team and, though it has had difficulty scoring after two weeks, with just one goal, it has yet to concede. Coach Antonio Mohamed is always at his best at the Estadio Caliente, which means this game could either be boring or an explosion of offense for two sides that have been slow out of the gates.

Tijuana has been waiting for new signing Gustavo Bou to provide the offense, as well as several other the additions signed as part of massive roster turnover. On the other side, Monterrey's Aviles Hurtado will be returning to the place where he became a star, adding a second homecoming to go along with Mohamed. -- Eric Gomez

3. Leon, Cruz Azul both need a win

The enchantment between Javier Torrente and Leon fans began to decline last season, when La Fiera ended the 2017 Clausura in 14th place with five wins, five draws and seven losses. The mechanisms that gave so much in the 2016 Apertura began to be less recurrent and the woes have continued to start off this season.

Leon is at the bottom of the table with two losses, allowing six goals in the process. Nothing is going right for Los Panzas Verdes and those who cover the club day-to-day say the team is in trouble. Against Cruz Azul, Torrente and Co. must show they want to continue with a project that began about a year ago.

Cruz Azul comes into the game having drawn 1-1 three consecutive times in league and cup play after a convincing 2-0 win over Tijuana on opening weekend. Players like Angel Mena and Martin Cauteruccio need to start tallying important goals and assists because, at the moment, it looks like newcomer Edgar Mendez is the most important attacking threat. -- Nayib Moran

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