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Cruz Azul will have to be as defiant as they were last week against Leon if they want to get something out of this game. Even a draw will suffice with three games left for the regular season to end. They’re five points ahead of the ninth-placed side and have a healthy goal difference, unlike the teams that form the chasing pack.
Club America are sitting comfortably in third place on the Liga MX table and coming into this game off the back of one of their most impressive result of the season. They go into this game as favorites, but Cruz Azul is a difficult proposition at home. This feels like a ‘dare not lose’ game, so a draw seems the most probable result.
Cruz Azul are among a few teams in the league with a superior head-to-head record against Club America. They’ve won 10, lost eight, and drawn 10 matches of the 28 matches played against Club America.
Matches between the two sides also tend to get feisty; there have been five sending-offs in this fixture and 72 yellow cards. The last meeting between the two sides also included a red card late in the game. Club America’s Emanuel Aguilera got his marching orders five minutes into stoppage after conceding a penalty. Cruz Azul’s Jonathan Rodriguez slotted the pressure penalty into the back of the net to give his side a dramatic 2-1 victory.
Cruz Azul had 55% possession and took nine shots to Club America’s six, so it’s fair to say they were the better side on the day. They opened the scoring just before the half-time whistle thanks to Roberto Alvarado before Federico Vinas leveled the scores seven minutes into the second half.
Cruz Azul was a bit fortunate to get a point against Leon over the weekend, but it was a very important point in the context of their season. They got to hold onto eighth place on the league table for another week and are five points ahead of the chasing pack with three games to go in the regular season.
Leon took 17 shots to Cruz Azul’s eight, but Cruz Azul reduced Leon to just three shots on target. Cruz Azul had to suffer for long periods, with just 36% of the possession but showed a lot of spirit throughout the game. The backline, especially, did an excellent job.
At this stage of the season, it doesn’t matter how you get the points. Cruz Azul have some difficult fixtures on the horizon before the regular season ends, so it was important to ensure they got something out of this game. They’ll have to do more of the same against Club America.
Cruz Azul hasn’t played with much conviction this season, but they’re quite hard to beat. They’re unbeaten in their last five league matches, which is impressive considering they’ve played some strong sides like Leon and Pachuca in that run-in.
They haven’t really been free-flowing going forward but have a sturdy rearguard that’s conceded just 15 goals this season. This is a positive heading into the playoffs, as two-legged ties are decided by the tiniest of margins. They’ve also kept three clean sheets in the last five matches, so the two center-backs, Ramiro Funes Mori and Rafael Guerrero deserve a lot of credit.
Funes Mori is a highly-experienced center-back who has played football in some top European clubs like Everton, and his experience will be vital in the coming days.
Club America reminded the rest of Liga MX that they’re still one of the top dogs in the league with a 2-1 victory over league leaders Monterrey. This was Club America’s most impressive result of the season, as Monterrey have been leagues ahead of every other team in the league with a six-point lead at the top of the Liga MX table.
Club America also had to come back from a goal down, which made this an even more admirable victory. Maximiliano Meza put Monterrey ahead in the 19th minute, but Diego Valdes Contreras got one back for the home side to level the scores before half-time.
Federico Vinas scored the winner in the 76th minute to give Club America all three points. There was another significant incident just before the match ended, as Esteban Andredas got sent off. Indiscipline has been an issue for most Liga MX teams this season, and it seems like Monterrey wasn’t immune from it either.
There were question marks around Club America’s status as title contender prior to this game, but they put a stop to those doubts with this performance. They had 65% of the possession and took eight shots to Monterrey’s nine, with five on target compared to Monterrey’s four. This was always going to be a tight game, but if any team deserved to get all three points, it was Club America.
Club America haven’t been at their imperious best this season, but they’re still scoring many goals. They lead the league for goals scored with 31; Toluca sit in second place on the goalscoring charts with 29 goals.
The defense has been the problem this season, as they’ve conceded 19 goals. Part of the reason for this is Club America plays a high line like the best of teams, which leaves some big spaces at the back for the opposition to exploit.
If Club America want to continue playing a high line, they must work on their rest defense. They need to snuff out counter-attacks before they get going, as they have in previous seasons; otherwise, the best teams will exploit this weakness in the playoffs. This isn’t a big issue in home games like the last game against Monterrey, but it will undoubtedly be an issue in away legs. They have a few more games to sort this out before the playoffs.
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With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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