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Cruz Azul finished seventh in the Apertura season but failed to register a win in two attempts this season (1D, 1L)
Necaxa nabbed the last playoff qualifying spot in the Apertura season but have lost both their opening two games this season
In the reverse fixture in the Apertura league phase, Cruz Azul beat Necaxa 1-0
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Pick: Draw (+230)
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An 84th-minute equalizer from Carlos Rodriguez rescued a vital point for Cruz Azul in their opening game of the Clausura season. In the second game, Cruz Azul took the lead via Uriel Antuna but ended up losing the game 3-2 against Monterrey.
Their next opponent, Necaxa, have struggled since September 2022. Necaxa’s winless streak in Liga MX was extended to eight games last week when they lost against Club Leon - the team Necaxa last won against before the beginning of this horrendous run.
Even during pre-season, Necaxa failed to win any of their four games. Considering all aspects, this could be a very tight encounter. Both sides have their fair share of troubles and would be happy with a point at the end of the day.
The pre-season encounter between these two sides ended in a goalless draw and Cruz Azul finished with ten men after Marco Sanchez was shown the red card in the 86th minute. In the Apertura season, an Ivan Morales strike in the 38th minute gave Cruz Azul all three points.
In the last ten Liga MX meetings between the two sides, Necaxa have only beaten Cruz Azul twice. The last time these two sides met at the Estadio Victoria de Aguascalientes was in the 2021 Apertura season. Santiago Gimenez’s 70th-minute winner sealed a 2-1 win that evening.
Necaxa’s last win in Liga MX came on September 2, 2022, when they beat Club Leon 3-2. After that, Necaxa lost four games and drew two as the Apertura season ended for them after a Round of 16 defeat against Tigres UANL.
Before the commencement of the 2023 Clausura season, Necaxa played four pre-season games and still failed to register a single win. The pre-season campaign started against their next opponent Cruz Azul that ended in a goalless draw.
After that, Necaxa went on to hold Club America to a 3-3 draw and shared the spoils with Pumas UNAM after a goalless draw. In the final pre-season encounter, they lost 1-0 against Toluca. The 2023 Clausura has also gotten off to a poor start for them.
Two games in, Necaxa find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table, still waiting to get off the mark. They lost their opening encounter against Atletico de San Luis before dropping all three points against Club Leon in the last game.
Necaxa deployed a three-man midfield in their opening Clausura encounter against Atletico de San Luis. Fernando Madrigal, Alejandro Andrade and Jose Esquivel were deployed behind the attacking three.
While Andrade put in a decent performance till the 66th minute before he was substituted, Madrigal and Esquivel struggled in the midfield. Madrigal won just two out of the eight duels he was involved in and lasted only 56 minutes on the pitch before being substituted.
Esquivel was involved in 13 duels and he lost ten of them - the most in that game. The player also picked up an unnecessary booking. Both players retained their spots in the team for the next game as well, but no improvement in their individual performances was marked.
After scoring seven goals in the 2022 Apertura season, Facundo Batista started where he left off last season when he netted Necaxa’s only goal of the game in the 2-1 defeat against Club Leon last week.
Batista scored from the spot after just 11 minutes to get off the mark this season. The Uruguayan could not feature in Necaxa’s opening fixture because he was suspended after picking up a red card in the Apertura playoff encounter with Tigres UANL.
Ricardo Monreal will play a vital role behind Batista for the rest of the season. A lot of creative responsibility rests on the shoulders of the 21-year-old. Monreal has already scored one goal and registered an assist in two games this season.
Cruz Azul finished seventh in the 2022 Apertura season. In the playoff Round of 16, they beat Club Leon and set up a quarter-final clash with Monterrey. They held Monterrey to a goalless draw at home in the second leg but ended up losing 3-0 in the away leg.
Two games into the new Clausura season, Cruz Azul find themselves in the 14th spot after two games. It’s still early days and the pack will get reshuffled frequently over the next three weeks, but Cruz Azul are still searching for their first win of the new season.
Despite winning the Guardianes 2021 title and being the fourth most successful side in Liga MX with nine titles, Cruz Azul find themselves without a squad that could take them all the way to their tenth title.
The primary aim of the side in this Clausura season will be to finish in the top ten places and see how far they can go in the playoffs. Last season, they scored 27 goals in 20 games. This season, increasing that tally will be a task considering the latest developments.
Michael Estrada’s loan spell at Cruz Azul continues as the 26-year-old intends to impress his current club, Cruz Azil, and his parent club, Toluca. The striker represented his country at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and started all games for Ecuador.
However, Estrada returned from the tournament with no goals or assists under his belt. He was impressive in Cruz Azul’s 1-1 draw against Tijuana in the opening game of the Clausura season but was shown a red card in the 3-2 loss against Monterrey last week.
Cruz Azul will be without a couple of their preferable attacking options in the next game as Estrada serves his suspension and the club already lost their leading goal scorer of last season to Feyenoord.
After making over 100 appearances for Cruz Azul and scoring over 20 goals, Santiago Gimenez left the club in the early stages of the Apertura season. The 21-year-old scored five goals in the opening four games of Cruz Azul in the 2022 Apertura season.
Looking at his outstanding performance on the pitch, Eredivisie side Feyenoord knocked on the door and signed Gimenez on a permanent deal. Despite playing just five games for the club, Gimenez finished as their leading goal scorer last season with five goals.
That stat shows how badly Cruz Azul have missed their talisman. In the next game, they will also be without Estrada. Midfielder Carlos Rodriguez has scored one and assisted one in two games so far. The side will hope the Mexican carries that form into the next game.
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Teams: Necaxa vs Cruz Azul
Location: Estadio Victoria
Time: Saturday, January 21 at 10:10 pm ET onwards
How to watch: Univision networks TUDN and UniMas, ESPN Deportes, Telemundo and Fox Deportes
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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