Chicharito continues West Ham surge; Porto's Herrera and Corona lagging
The last two weeks have been positive for Mexican footballers in Europe. Many of them are seeing constant playing time, which will be of great help to Mexico's national team in this summer's World Cup.
Many members of Mexico's European legion saw action this weekend and made an impact in their respective games.
Here's a look at the Heroes and Villains:
After weeks in which his future was up in the air, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez is smiling again, and his play is helping his club. Hernandez has three goals in West Ham's last four league games. What stood out on Saturday against Watford was Chicharito's work rate, especially in the first half and early part of the second. Alongside Marko Arnautovic, they created danger in the final third.
What should be followed closely with Chicharito closely from now until the World Cup is how he evolves as a forward while playing on the right flank. Many of his looks on goal against Watford started on the right.
Chicharito is becoming a more versatile forward, with good dribbling skills and sometimes good passes into the box. However, he must improve his passing accuracy. Although he was named West Ham's Man of the Match on Saturday, he finished the night with a 62.5 percent passing accuracy and zero key passes.
3️⃣ goals in his last 4️⃣ games... pic.twitter.com/IwWBsNrZvp— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) February 10, 2018
On Sunday in the Belgian League, Guillermo Ochoa's Standard Liege and Omar Govea's Royal Excel Mouscron faced off in a match filled with emotion for both sides. Standard defeated Mouscron 4-3, but Govea's performance will be one to look back on, especially if Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio decides to give him a call-up for the March friendlies. Govea directly participated in two of Mouscron's goals, and though he was sent off in the 90th minute his performance overshadowed that of Ochoa, who made two big saves.
The race to stay atop the table in Liga NOS continues, and Hector Herrera will captain FC Porto in what will be a busy couple of weeks. FC Porto meets Liverpool in Wednesday's Champions League action, and its next three league games will be against Rio Ave, Portimonense and Sporting Lisbon. The game against Sporting will be fundamental in the league title race, but Herrera is playing at an impressive level. His play is directly influencing Porto's recent positive results. Against Chaves, Porto won 4-0, and Herrera helped with one assist. He completed 55 passes and had two key passes.
Real Betis and Andres Guardado visit Deportivo La Coruna on Monday night. It's a special return to the city where Guardado spent his first years in Europe, but times are different. He will arrive to La Coruna as one Betis' leaders and Mexico's undisputed captain. His career will come full circle. But before this special match, where he's likely to receive a standing ovation from Deportivo's faithful, he took the time to train alongside Costa Rican Joel Campbell as he gets match-fit to return to the pitch. These acts are what will ultimately put Guardado's name among the top 10 greatest Mexican footballers of all time.
Mexico's European legion has been living some of its best weeks since the 2017-18 season started. It's undeniable that the outlook has lightened up, especially after Miguel Layun and Hector Moreno made winter transfer moves to La Liga in recent weeks. It's uncertain how effective these moves will be for Layun and Moreno as they hope to arrive in great form to the World Cup. But there is cause for concern in the cases of Raul Jimenez and Jesus Corona.
Jimenez has played only 367 league minutes with Benfica with just two goals, and Corona has played 1,026 league minutes with Porto, scoring twice and picking up three assists. Since the start of the new year, Corona has started in five of six league matches for Porto but has contributed with only one assist.
Corona has to be more determined in Porto's attack when he gets the start. It remains to be seen if manager Sergio Conceicao will give Corona game-time against Liverpool this week.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.