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FC Juarez started their Clausura 2024 campaign with a loss against Pumas UNAM, extending their losing streak in Liga MX to five games
Cruz Azul suffered the same fate in the opening matchweek as they were beaten 1-0 by CF Pachuca
When these two teams clashed in the Apertura 2023 season, Cruz Azul nabbed a comfortable 2-0 win over Juarez
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Concerns are piling up for Juarez as they have lost nine out of their last ten games in Liga MX. Their only win during this stint came against Atletico de San Luis in October. After that, the club suffered losses against Santos Laguna, Cruz Azul, Queretaro FC, Club Leon, and most recently against Pumas UNAM.
Towards the end of October 2023, Cruz Azul secured back-to-back wins over Leon and Juarez, and were aiming to end the Apertura 2023 season on the front foot. However, they failed to maintain the momentum and slumped to defeats against Chivas Guadalajara and Puebla. They marked the start of the new season with a defeat at home against Pachuca.
The head-to-head record between these two sides strongly backs the visitors. However, both squads are underperforming, and Juarez have the home advantage. Considering all the aspects, it seems like both sides will end up canceling each other out and sharing the points.
Cruz Azul dominate this fixture as they have won eight out of the last ten games against Juarez in all competitions. Juarez’s solitary victory in this encounter came in the Apertura 2021 season, which also ended their five-match losing streak against Cruz Azul.
This will only be the fourth time the two teams play at Estadio Olimpico Benito Juarez. Cruz Azul’s first visit to the venue came in the Clausura 2021 season, and it was a happy occasion for the visitors as they clinched all three points with a 1-0 win.
The next visit gave Juarez the win, and the last meeting between these two clubs at this venue came in Apertura 2022 when both sides split the points after a 2-2 draw. Juarez were reduced to ten men after just five minutes into the game after Javier Salas was shown a straight red.
Juarez attempted ten shots in their opening match against Pumas, out of which only three were on target, and none found the back of the net. Surprisingly, none of these on-target attempts came via striker Amaury Escoto, who only attempted one blocked shot in the match.
The 31-year-old got just three starts last season and made a total of ten appearances, scoring two goals. However, in the opening game of the new season, his performance was quite subpar. New signing Angel Zaldivar came on as a substitute and may start the match against Cruz Azul.
The former Chivas Guadalajara striker scored four goals in 13 appearances last season. However, he started only two games. Aviles Hurtado was Juarez’s top scorer with six goals last season, and it seems the club will rely on him again to get the crucial goals.
Head coach Diego Mejia’s primary concern will be to strengthen the left flank of Juarez. Left-winger Diego Chavez lost the most duels in the match against Pumas, while left-back Jose Abella lost four out of six duels.
Aitor Garcia, who operated as a left-sided midfielder, was also quite subpar and could not provide the desired creativity from the middle third. Cruz Azul could exploit this vulnerability if Mejia does not tweak his tactics.
While performances in the middle and final thirds were not up to the standard, the defensive department was lucky to have Arturo Ortiz. The center-back made his Juarez debut against his former club, Pumas.
The 31-year-old was the standout performer for Juarez as he was robust, won multiple tackles, and made numerous blocks, clearances, interceptions, and recoveries. In his absence, Juarez would certainly have conceded more than one goal.
In the opening encounter against Pachuca, all four new signings of Cruz Azul made their debuts. Defender Gonzalo Piovi, midfielder Lorenzo Faravelli, and striker Gabriel Fernandez started the game, while left-back Camilo Candido came off the bench in the 74th minute.
Unfortunately for the hosts, it was Pachuca’s debutant, Jose Salomon Rondon, who stole the spotlight by scoring the only goal of the match. Fernandez attempted just two shots in the match, and both were off-target, while Piovi’s debut was spoiled by his error that led to Pachuca’s goal.
Faravelli looked sharp with his dribbles and accurate long passes. However, the club expects more out of all players, and the game against a struggling Juarez side will set the perfect stage for a much-needed resurgence.
Spectators were surprised to see Angel Sepulveda on the bench for Cruz Azul’s first match of the Clausura 2024 season. The 32-year-old was signed before the start of last season from Queretaro FC and made a huge impact after scoring nine goals in 14 appearances.
Sepulveda came on and played the final 17 minutes against Pachuca but could not get enough time to open his account this season. Against Juarez, he is expected to replace Fernandez and play alongside Uriel Antuna.
Martin Anselmi is one of the few head coaches who are making their Liga MX managerial debut this season. After winning four trophies in two years in Ecuador with Independiente del Valle, the Argentine wants to restore Cruz Azul to its former glory.
However, it is anything but an uphill task for the new gaffer. He has already tasted defeat on his debut, and it will be interesting to see how Anselmi bounces back in the next match.
Teams: FC Juarez vs. Cruz Azul
Location: Estadio Olimpico Benito Juarez
Time: Friday, January 20 at 10:10 pm ET
How to Watch: Univision, Telemundo, Fox Sports, ESPN, Vix and Sling TV
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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