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Liga MX W2W4: Tigres' home streak will be put to the test against Toluca

To become a playoff contender, Rafael Puente and Lobos BUAP must find a way to defeat Cruz Azul on Saturday.

Ahead of this weekend's action, ESPN FC's Liga MX writers Tom Marshall, Nayib Moran and Eric Gomez look ahead to some of the league's biggest matchups and storylines.

Lobos BUAP vs. Cruz Azul

This game pits the two most intriguing sides so far this Apertura and two managers in Rafael Puente and Paco Jemez who don't have a reverse gear.

A total of 45 goals -- 20 for and 25 against -- have been scored in games involving Lobos BUAP so far this season, a full five more than next-highest Pachuca.

The team from Puebla has become the most entertaining side in the Apertura, one capable of defeating the likes of Pachuca and Chivas, but also of losing its last three matches.

Lobos BUAP are on the brink against Cruz Azul. It is almost a season-defining game. A victory against La Maquina on Saturday will make Lobos BUAP a legitimate playoff candidate, while a defeat could increase pressure on Puente's position.

Cruz Azul's defensive deficiencies are well-publicized under Jemez, but there is no sense the Spaniard will waver in his fervent beliefs. La Maquina will continue to play expansive and open football, which is certainly easy on the eye, but leaves the defense vulnerable.

Expect plenty of goals and a festival of attacking football in a battle of two similar offensive philosophies.

- Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup)

Puebla vs. Pachuca

Manager Diego Alonso is beginning to feel unsure at Pachuca.

Pachuca's season has been filled with mixed emotions. On the one hand, the team made significant additions in the offseason that led to optimism in its fanbase before the ball started rolling.

But on the other hand, the team hasn't impressed this season, even with the talented squad that Alonso has available.

The club has Liga MX's top leading Mexican goalscorer in Victor Guzman, and it's also one of two clubs to have defeated Tigres this season. But its home record has been weak for its standards. So far, Pachuca has three wins, two draws and two defeats at Estadio Hidalgo. It was Club America who ended its impressive home undefeated streak, which lasted for more than a year.

With the FIFA Club World Cup almost coming up, it's looking like Pachuca will miss the Liguilla. And on Saturday, it will host Puebla, who's coming off one of the most surprising wins of the 2017 Apertura after defeating Monterrey 2-0 at Estadio Cuauhtemoc.

Pachuca drew 2-2 against Toluca, and Alonso looked disconcerted. Pachuca couldn't protect a 2-1 lead, allowing Toluca to take a valuable point from Hidalgo.

For the first time, Alonso looks unsure about his future in the club. "With the players we talk about the day to day. We talk about improving, about growing, about elevating our game so we can once again be the team that we once were," he said after the Toluca game. "We're living an internal battle, so we can achieve it.

"The only form I know that can get us there is by fighting, but if there comes a moment when I don't see a response [from the players], I won't be needed anymore. But if I can still see the response, the result doesn't matter. Of course, we will have to see what the directors think. But if I can't see the response, I'm not needed anymore, that's all."

Alonso knows that Pachuca must recuperate its style. Against Puebla, the team will have another go at it, but if can't win, then the playoff hopes will almost be over.

- Nayib Moran (@nayibmoran)

Andre-Pierre Gignac and Tigres, who host Toluca Saturday, have not lost a home match this season.

Toluca vs. Tigres

Tigres have not lost at home, while Toluca has yet to win away. Simple prediction, right?

It would be unwise to write Toluca off, however, it's lost just once since Aug. 27.

Hernan Cristante's side has the ability to neutralize opposing offenses when traveling away from their home ground. In five away games thus far this season, three matches have finished 0-0.

That seems a tough task to accomplish against a team boasting Andre-Pierre Gignac, Enner Valencia, Javier Aquino, Jurgen Damm and Eduardo Vargas up front, but Toluca has been up to task more than once this semester.

Meanwhile, Toluca's offense is nothing to sneeze at either, having scored 20 goals this season, just one less than Tigres.

The winner of this game has the added bonus of staying in higher echelon of the league table.

Toluca, with 23 points, and Tigres, with 22, currently lead a logjam of clubs that can leapfrog them, including seventh place Cruz Azul at 21 points.

As the season enters its final stretch, positioning becomes all the more important in setting up a potential quarterfinal clash.

Ironically, this could influence Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti to lock the gates in the back -- in six games this season at the Universitario, Tigres have allowed just three goals. Could another 0-0 away draw for Toluca be in the cards?

- Eric Gomez (@EricGomez86)

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