Liga MX W2W4: Miguel Herrera returns to Tijuana with Club America
The 2017 Apertura rolls on with a full slate of matches. Our writers look at some of the key storylines heading into an exciting weekend.
Herrera returns to Tijuana
America coach Miguel Herrera returns to Estadio Caliente on Friday in a match that pitting second (Las Aguilas) against third (Club Tijuana) in the 2017 Apertura table. The focus will be on Herrera, who will surely get a warm reception from Xolos fans considering he guided Tijuana to first place in the 2016 Apertura and 2017 Clausura regular seasons.
Club America failed to reach the playoffs last season, but has take shape under Herrera, who has shown much more tactical flexibility than in his last spell at the club. America has had a couple of blips against Queretaro and Morelia, but things have gone relatively smoothly and Herrera's loose 4-4-2 (4-2-4) formation is showing signs of clicking.
Over at Xolos, it was the switch from a back four to a 5-3-2 -- ironically the formation is best known for when he was Mexico coach -- ahead of the week five game against Santos Laguna that revived a poor start to the season.
Tijuana is now the form team -- besides Monterrey -- in Liga MX with four consecutive wins and the club has got past the post-Herrera hangover. That has been helped by Gustavo Bou's goal-getting and the signings of Paraguay international Juan Manuel Iturbe and Ecuadorian forward Miller Bolanos, who could make his debut against Las Aguilas.
A victory would be huge for coach Eduardo "Chacho" Coudet in entrenching himself at Xolos. The 42-year-old Argentine was heavily criticized when things didn't go well early on at Tijuana and a victory over Herrera would surely lay down a marker. -- Tom Marshall
Scoring issues for Santos and Cruz Azul
The coming days are going to be significant for Paco Jemez's Cruz Azul. Although the team has shown glimpses of consistency and stability, the fact that it has only been able to get two wins so far in the Apertura does worry a good part of the fan base. After three consecutive league draws, a win in its upcoming match against Santos will give more reason to La Maquina's faithful to be optimistic for what's ahead.
Jemez's work and ideas are already well ingrained in the team; it just seems to lack a little more luck in the final third. Neither Felipe Mora, nor Martin Cauteruccio have been able to become major threats inside the box. Their scoring efficiency tends to be inconsistent, and the contributions of Edgar Mendez, Martin Rodriguez and Angel Mena are fundamental in order for Cruz Azul to have a dangerous offense.
But it is facing Santos, who only has one win in the Apertura, and is also carrying the same scoring problem that Cruz Azul seems to have showcased in the last three Liga MX games. Fortunately for them, Los Guerreros will have captain Carlos Izquierdoz, who was out the first seven weeks due to injury, back.
After the match vs. Santos, Cruz Azul will have to start preparing its round of 16 Copa MX match against Club America at Estadio Azteca. It will be a magnificent opportunity for Jemez to lead Cruz Azul to victory, but before that can happen La Maquina needs to defeat Santos in front of its home crowd. A win will maximize the team's confidence before the upcoming Clasico Joven, but a loss could create unwanted confusion. -- Nayib Moran
Leader Monterrey hosts struggling Atlas
Little has been said about Monterrey despite their impressive pace to start the season. The Rayados have notched 20 out of 24 available points, scoring 16 goals and allowing just four.
Up front, the trio of Dorlan Pabon, Rogelio Funes Mori and new signing Aviles Hurtado has been a handful for opposing defenses; each player has scored four goals through the first eight weeks of the Apertura 2017. Meanwhile, the defense has been stout, with 20-year-old Cesar Montes a rising star and burgeoning leader for a team featuring a mix of youth and veterans.
Atlas, meanwhile, could give a Liga MX debut to Ravel Morrison in the club's first league game since before the international break; last week saw the infamous postponement of a match vs. Tigres, due to a low-lying video board at the Jalisco Stadium. After a strong start to the Apertura, which yielded two straight wins, Atlas has fallen off due to an injury to Clifford Aboagye and the legal troubles that have sidelined Rafa Marquez.
With just one point from the last five matches, the pressure is on for manager Jose Guadalupe Cruz; fans will pile on if the Guadalajara side doesn't grab at least a point this weekend, despite facing the league leaders. -- Eric Gomez