Gimpy champs play host to Atlético de San Luis without three starters

Liga MX returns to action with Friday triple-header and sensational Saturday slate

América's midfield quarterback Diego Valdés grimaces after suffering a thigh injury against Guadalajara on March 16. The playmaker was back in training with the reigning Liga MX champs earlier this week.
América's midfield quarterback Diego Valdés grimaces after suffering a thigh injury against Guadalajara on March 16. The playmaker was back in training with the reigning Liga MX champs earlier this week. / Jam Media/GettyImages
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With a disappointing FIFA break in the rearview mirror, Liga MX returns for the stretch run this weekend. 

Kicking off Matchday 13 is a Friday night triple-header that features both of last season’s finalists: Wounded holders América host an Atlético de San Luis squad struggling to make a playoff push while Tigres pay a visit to last-place Puebla without all-time leading scorer André-Pierre Gignac.

The Aguilas are 3 points back of first-place Monterrey while Tigres are another 4 points adrift in sixth place, and both are heavily favored to add to their win columns tomorrow.

Friday’s nightcap is more of a “who cares” match-up between also-rans as the league’s lone winless team, Tijuana, travels down the coast to take on 15th-place Mazatlán FC.

Liga MX champs will test roster depth

Local fans started the week on a down note as El Tri was thumped by Team USA in the Concacaf Nations League final, extending Mexico’s winless streak against its. Bitter rivals to seven games.

The FIFA break brought further bad news to Club América. The defending Liga MX champs saw winger Julián Quiñones go down with a thigh complaint in the Nations League semifinal and the Aguilas star missed the U.S. match. 

“Los Azulcremas” were active during the break and misfortune followed them during their March 25 friendly against Cruz Azul in Carson, California. Midfielder Álvaro Fidalgo and winger Alejandro Zendejas emerged with muscle injuries  (first-degree semitendinosus, to be specific).

All three starters will miss tonight’s match against Atlético de San Luis.

In addition, defenders Igor Lichnovsky and Sebastián Cáceres are questionable as they only returned from national team duty (Lichnovsky with Chile, Cáceres with Uruguay) on Thursday.

There is some good news for Aguilas coach André Jardine. Star playmaker Diego Valdés has returned early from a thigh injury incurred two weeks ago against the Chivas as has defender Israel Reyes who was spiked on the knee in the same “Super Clásico.”

Both were training at full speed at the beginning of the week.

The Liga MX champs face Jardine’s former team which is seeking to rediscover its early season form. After flirting with the top spot through the first three weeks of the season, Atleti suffered a seven-game winless streak that included six losses.

The visitors will arrive to Estadio Azteca after having won two of their past three matches, however, and hope to slow down América’s race to repeat.

Tigres take field at Estadio Cuauhtémoc as heavy favorites

Last season’s losing finalist begins its stretch run with what should be an easy match against the cellar-dwelling Camoteros.

Puebla lost to formerly winless FC Juárez last Saturday in a Matchday 7 make-up game, allowing the Border Braves to leap-frog “La Franja” and send the Camoteros into last place.

Tigres, seeking to get back to its third straight Liga MX final, appears to be following its time-worn path of slow starts and strong finishes. “Los felinos” are coming off a 5-1 rout over Mazatlán and can gather momentum with the expected victory over Puebla.

The visitors will have to make do without star striker Gignac who is set to miss his fourth game of the Clausura 2024. 

The Frenchman, 38, is not injured; Gignac skipped the trip to Puebla due to a bronchitis attack. Former Liga MX scoring champ Nico Ibáñez (he won the Apertura 2022 Golden Boot) will try to fill Gignac’s shoes.

The rest of the Tigres roster is healthy except for goalie Nahuel Guzmán who will miss the remainder of the regular season after March 12 knee surgery. 

The rest of the Liga MX schedule

Friday’s third game pits 15th-place Mazatlán FC against 16th-placed Tijuana and Matchday 13 continues with three games on Saturday and three on Sunday.

Saturday's calendar features three very attractive contests: first, fifth-place Pachuca (22 points) hosts third-place Toluca (23); then league-leading Monterrey (28) welcomes struggling Guadalajara (in 10th place with 16 points) to "El Gigante de Acero;" and finally 11th-place UNAM (16) plays host to crosstown rivals Cruz Azul (in fourth place with 22 points).

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Sunday's schedule has eighth-place Querétaro (17) visiting 14th-place Atlas (10), once-beaten Necaxa (21) hosting León (17) and Santos Laguna (14) at FC Juárez (6).