Matchday 13: Pachuca-Toluca clash expected to provide plenty of fireworks

Eslewhere, Liga MX table-toppers Monterrey welcome Chivas and Cruz Azul visits UNAM

Pachuca, the top-scoring team in Liga MX, has rippled opponents' nets 26 times this season. The Tuzos faces Toluca and its second-best offense in a Matchday 13 contest tonight.
Pachuca, the top-scoring team in Liga MX, has rippled opponents' nets 26 times this season. The Tuzos faces Toluca and its second-best offense in a Matchday 13 contest tonight. / Manuel Velasquez/GettyImages
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Saturday’s Liga MX triple-header has serious playoff implications for all six teams so fans are in for some drama.

The Toluca at Pachuca match promises to be a shoot-out. The host Tuzos 6th place, 22 points) are the highest-scoring team in Liga MX with 26 goals while third-place Toluca  (23 points) is right behind with 25 goals scored.

Pachuca has lost two of three to slide down the table and Guillermo Almada has been grumbling about the slack defense the Tuzos have played of late. Pachuca has conceded 22 goals, fourth-worst in the league.

The Diablos Rojos, on the other hand, boasts the fourth-stingiest defense, allowing just 13 goals. Toluca goalie Tiago Volpi has registered four clean sheets in the club’s last six games.

Liga MX leaders face pesky Goats

Monterrey is the lone unbeaten team in Liga MX after 12 matchdays, but their hold on first place is tenuous if history is any indication.

The Rayados welcome 10th-place Guadalajara to Estadio BBVA a day after América equaled Monterrey’s point total (28) and if the Chivas win, Monterrey is likely to fall into second place.

That can’t happen, though … right?

Well, the Rayados have not beaten the Chivas at “El Gigante de Acero” since August 2017. “El Rebaño Sagrado” is 3-2-0 in its past five games at Monterrey, with an 8-4 goal differential.

Fernando Ortiz has his full roster available and his Rayados have been in fine form, posting a 12-4-0 record this year in all competitions with a 33-10 goal differential. 

The Chivas are a mediocre 4-4-4 in league play with a 15-15 goal count. And coach Fernando Gago is not traveling with a full complement.

“Chicharito” Hernández and Isaác Brizuela did not make the trip to Nuevo León. The striker and the winger are both suffering from a stomach virus, so Gago will choose between Ricardo Marín and J.J. Macías to lead the strike force. 

Brizuela is just a part-time starter, so his absence won’t be an excuse should Monterrey manage to hold court and make Gago’s already-hot seat even more uncomfortable.

Slumping capital clubs clash on campus

In Saturday’s nightcap, Mexico City rivals UNAM and Cruz Azul square off at the CU. 

The Pumas – Liga MX semifinalists a season ago – have been in free fall this month. “Los felinos” have given up 3 goals in four straight games, going 0-1-3 to tumble down to 11th place.

Cruz Azul has lost three of four after a six-game win streak had lifted the Cementeros into second place. Now, “La Máquina Azul” is in fifth place and fighting to regain the form that made coach Martín Anselmi an early Coach of the Year candidate.

The loss of striker Gabriel “El Toro” Fernández to a season-ending knee injury has been tough to overcome and Anselmi has yet to settle on a partner up front for Ángel Sepúlveda.

Friday night results

Defending Liga MX champs América dominated visiting Atlético de San Luis for long stretches but emerged with a slim 2-1 victory

The wounded Aguilas opened with only five starters, then star playmaker Diego Valdés was forced into action at the 37-minute mark after Ilián Hernández was carted off with an injury. 

Diego, just back to training this week after a thigh strain, produced the first goal, getting behind his marker at the back post in minute 54 and slamming home a volley from a picture-perfect pass by Kevin Álvarez.

Brian Rodríguez doubled América’s lead a half-hour later, benefiting from a nifty Henry Martín assist.

Goalie Luis Malagón demonstrated why pundits are demanding he get some starts for El Tri, twice coming up big between the pipes or else the Aguilas might have had to split the points.

In Puebla, Tigres held off a game challenge from last-place Puebla, escaping Estadio Cuauhtémoc with a 3-2 win. Both Puebla tallies were glazes and back-up goalie Carlos Rodríguez came up with a game-winning reflex save in minute 86. 

Tigres also got help late when VAR helped overturn a penalty call whistled by ref Jorge Camacho in minute 88.

Juan Brunetta, Diego Reyes and Sebastián Córdova were the goal-scorers for the triumphant visitors.

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In Mazatlán, the Cañoneros climbed into 14th place with a 2-0 win over a hapless Tijuana side. The Xolos are the lone winless team in Liga MX and Miguel Herrera might not last the season.