Are newcomers Lobos BUAP a flash in the pan or a legit title contender?
Newly-promoted Lobos BUAP are top of Liga MX but are the Puebla-based minnows for real or just a club with some early momentum that will soon fall off the pace? We asked our LIGA MX correspondents Tom Marshall, Nayib Moran and Eric Gomez to weigh in on Lobos BUAP's quick start and potential staying power.
I for one don't think it is a fluke. Lobos BUAP have quickly established an identity in terms of playing style and truthfully, it's been a breath of fresh air. In contrast to the usual teams getting promoted from the second division sitting back in games against more established opposition and trying to grind out points, Lobos BUAP have taken risk, sought to take the initiative in matches and impressed. It's worked so far and there have even been some premature comparisons with Leicester City.
But while Lobos BUAP topping Liga MX isn't down to luck and the team should be respected, it would be a minor miracle if the team from Puebla were to make a serious title challenge.
It won't be long before rival teams analyze them more closely, as with more matches comes more familiarity. Look for clubs to get a better read on Lobos as time goes on and work out shrewder strategies to combat a side that is clearly well-drilled on the training field, but isn't anywhere near the best in Liga MX in terms of individual talent.
Over the course of the season, other sides will gel more as well, making it increasingly difficult for Lobos BUAP to maintain their positive start.
Another factor going against Lobos is the bizarre situation with Colombian players Wilson Palacios and Julian Quinones and the reported fight they were involved in following last Saturday's 3-2 win over Pachuca. Palacios was expelled from the club, while Quinones is set for an extended stretch on the sideline with injuries suffered from the fight and also likely to serve some form of punishment.
A club like Lobos BUAP has never been in the headlines like it has this week for the fall-out of the fight and that will have an effect.
The bottom line is that we should enjoy Lobos BUAP and coach Rafa Puente as an uplifting story, rather than getting bogged down in whether they are title contenders or not. The simple answer is that they aren't.
Are Lobos BUAP actually for real? In a word: "maybe".
Just when it looked like Lobos BUAP had taken liftoff, and that they were going to be a hard team to break down, the unthinkable happened, as an unexpected off-field ordeal has a taken toll on Liga MX's newest member. After Lobos' 3-2 win over Pachuca, reports broke out in Mexico of a fight that involved two team members -- Quinones and Palacios. Since the ordeal, different versions of the story have been reported. What is certain is that Palacios is no longer part of the squad, while Quinones is reported to miss around three to four weeks because of the injuries he suffered during the fight.
Not having Quinones for the upcoming games will open the doors for other teammates, but after three matches the 20-year-old Colombian striker had scored three goals, making him one of the team's main attacking threats. Luckily, the team features players with vast experience like Francisco Javier Rodriguez, Carlos Adrian Morales and Juan Carlos Medina. The leadership from those veterans will be fundamental in the upcoming games which will be against Pumas, Club America, Atlas and Tigres. Three of those four matches will be away games in tough venues such as Estadio Olimpico Universitario, Estadio Jalisco and El Volcan.
Lobos' start to the new season has been inspirational, and if they make a good number of points in the next four matches, then we're definitely talking about Liga MX's Cinderella story.
It's only been three games for Lobos BUAP but there's a growing sensation that the team's strong offensive performance and speedy play can be a factor as the season matures.
This weekend will be crucial. After an off-the-field occurrence left Lobos minus one player permanently (Palacios) and with goal scorer Quinones fined and reprimanded, there can be reason to believe this is more than an early fluke. If they're able to overcome that and keep racking up points, it's their mental toughness we'll be talking about along with their impressive start.
A loss, however, will cast serious doubt on whether they can keep this fairy tale going.