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Following some off-the-field drama that negatively impacted their form, Cruz Azul have recently pushed away some of their early-season problems through two wins in their last two games.
Sitting two points behind them is Necaxa, who only have one win in their first four games of the new Liga MX season. Although Necaxa were able to hold their own in their latest 1-1 draw with title-favorites Tigres, doubts will continue to linger above their heads as they march into Week 5 of the 2021 Clausura. While Cruz Azul seems to have shaken off their rust, Necaxa have remained stagnant in the first few weeks of the tournament.
Cruz Azul for the win (+125)
|Necaxa vs Cruz Azul Information|
|What||Necaxa vs Cruz Azul|
|Where||Estadio Victoria (Aguascalientes City, Aguascalientes)|
|When||Friday, February 5th at 10:00 PM ET|
|How to Watch||TUDN|
Get ready for some Liga MX fireworks on Friday night when Necaxa host one of the biggest teams in the league, Cruz Azul.
Heading into Week 5, Necaxa have drifted in and out of good performances. So far defined by inconsistencies, the mid-table squad and manager Jose Guadalupe Cruz have run face-first into a couple of hurdles in early 2021. Defensively questionably but also surprisingly decent in the attack (at times), Necaxa is entertaining but also unreliable.
And on Friday, they’ll be taking on a Cruz Azul side that are now suddenly firing on all cylinders.
Last month, Cruz Azul star striker Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodriguez made headlines for all of the wrong reasons.
After a video emerged of the Uruguayan taking part in a small party — which therefore broke the league’s COVID-19 protocol rules — Rodriguez was temporarily dropped from the team and given a financial sanction. Rumors of a possible exit for the player soon followed, as did others whispers of other teammates feeling disenchanted with Cruz Azul’s two losses to start the season.
Then came an unexpected 1-0 win over Pachuca two weeks ago, and most recently, the return of Rodriguez in an inspired performance that carried Cruz Azul to a 4-1 thrashing of Queretaro on January 30th.
Whether it be due to a break, an acknowledgement of his mistakes, or just simply wanting to prove his critics wrong, Rodriguez was commanding with his goal and two assists in the recent win.
The winger/striker is arguably the top player in the league when he’s at his best, and after thriving last week, expect Rodriguez to once again step up for Cruz Azul.
All of this of course means that Necaxa must figure out their defensive plan. Other than perhaps the efforts are seen from central defender Unai Bilbao, there hasn’t been enough to show that the team will halt the long list of chances that they’ve allowed from opposition squads.
And were it not for some high-flying saves from Luis Malagon in the net, things could be even worse for Necaxa this season.
Right-back Julio Gonzalez has already earned three yellow cards in his first four starts, left-back Idekel Dominguez is one of the least influential players on the field, and in the middle alongside Bilbao, Mario de Luna seems to occasionally be a step behind attacking players.
Assuming trends continue and the same backline is selected, the only chance for Necaxa this Friday is through Malagon having another highlight-worthy evening.
Of course, when discussing Cruz Azul, there’s much more than just Rodriguez spearheading the attack.
In recent weeks, Juan Escobar has been near-perfect with his defensive interventions, Adrian Aldrete has been dangerous with his runs down the left flank, and midfielder Orbelin Pineda has also been vital with his impact in the final third.
It obviously hasn’t been an ideal start to the season, but at the very least, Cruz Azul have started to truly find their momentum under a handful of prominent and leading figures who should be able to get the job done against Necaxa this Friday.
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Freelance writer Cesar Hernandez is a specialist in all things American and Mexican soccer. He has written for ESPN FC, The Athletic, The Guardian, FourFourTwo, VICE Sports and several other publications. Along with writing and previous radio appearances on the BBC, talkSPORT and SiriusXM FC, Cesar is also a member of the Mexican Soccer Show podcast. Email: [email protected]More info on Cesar Hernandez
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