The schedule is busy, with four Mexican teams in the CONCACAF Champions League and two more in the Copa Libertadores, plus a whole slew of teams fighting for the Copa MX.
That adds an interesting wrinkle as managers massage their rosters to get the most they can out of their squads. Let's look at that and a few more talking points ahead of Round 8 of the Liga MX Clausura:
IT'S A BIG WEEKEND FOR ... PUMAS
Most weeks this section is a coach or player who is struggling and on the brink of losing his job or getting benched. Not so this week. Pumas are undefeated in their last four league matches (though just one of those matches was a win) and in their last five across all competitions.
And yet this weekend begins a big stretch for Pumas, a team that finished as the runner-up in the previous tournament. That position got the them into the Copa Libertadores, which they started off well by beating Emelec. The schedule picks up a bit now, with Pumas heading for Paraguay to play Olimpia after Friday's contest against Veracruz.
"At the moment, no," Pumas manager Guillermo Vazquez said when asked if he's putting one tournament over the other. "We're going to look to do well in both."
That might not be easy, but the first barometer for that is ths weekend's trip to Veracruz. The Tiburones Rojos are yet to get a victory but were able to keep Club America to a draw when Las Aguilas visited the Luis "Pirata" Fuente. If Pumas can't get past Veracruz, it could be a sign that they're in for a difficult few months. If they smash their opponents, it will signal the potential for continued league success no matter how the Libertadores progresses.
DON'T MISS ... TIGRES vs. CLUB AMERICA
This weekend sees a meeting of the teams that have probably been the best in Mexico during the past 12 months. In that period, America became the continental champion by beating the Montreal Impact in the CONCACAF Champions League, while Tigres won the Liga MX Apertura.
America won't have Oribe Peralta or Darwin Quintero for this match after they were sent off in last weekend's 3-3 draw against Cruz Azul. Michael Arroyo is out for personal reasons. Las Aguilas also are unlikely to have Dario Benedetto and Miguel Samudio because of injuries, though goalkeeper Moises Munoz looks set to return after being substituted from the capital rivalry match.
Tigres are in much better shape and were able to stay at home after their CONCACAF Champions League triumph over Real Salt Lake. America arrives from Seattle, which is not an insignificant trip. Despite all the things going against him, though, Club America manager Ignacio Ambriz says he's keeping a cool head.
"It's not complicated," Ambriz told reporters. "Tigres deserve my respect because they have a great team, but I have a great team too and we're going to go at them for 90 minutes. We're going to give them a fight. All my players know how we play. That makes me calm, and I see the team as very united."
They'll have to be to beat Tigres, though the reigning champ has shown some vulnerability this year. Tigres manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti has some injury doubts of his own in Javier Aquino and Hugo Ayala. But with Tigres' staunch defending and Andre-Pierre Gignac and Jurgen Damm still fit, Ambriz will have to devise a savvy game plan to get out of Monterrey with a victory.
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR ... BOUNCE-BACK POTENTIAL
It's fair to say last weekend could've gone better for Pachuca and Toluca. The Tuzos went into the round undefeated but were stymied by an Atlas side that had managed just one win previously. Toluca wanted to ride the momentum of a Copa Libertadores-opening victory and instead was humiliated by Leon, 5-1.
With the teams meeting this weekend, there's a good chance for one of the sides to get a bit of redemption. The obvious candidate is Pachuca. Toluca has won just once through seven Liga MX matches, and that was all the way back in the first week of the season. The Red Devils might be tempted to put the Libertadores first, with reason, and that could let Pachuca take advantage of a side resting its best players ahead of Wednesday's match in Argentina against San Lorenzo.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"I find it to be excessive. We know the way Tomas celebrates, not just now but for a while back. I don't know why they made this decision. It was a euphoric celebration. We were in a critical moment because they were two goals down on the scoreline, we tied it and I don't think it was done in bad faith." - Jesus Corona,Cruz Azul goalkeeper
When Cruz Azul hosts league-leading Monterrey on Saturday, it won't have manager Tomas Boy on the touchline. He was sent off after Cruz Azul's stoppage-time equalizer. Boy is known for a particularly unsightly dance that he does to celebrate goals, but there's no doubt the version he did after the equalizer was a bit outsized. He then got into it with America's bench, including injured forward Dario Benedetto.
Boy was suspended two matches, which his goalkeeper thinks is a bit much. His vision is obviously colored Cruz Azul blue, and neutrals will find it tough to sympathize with the relatively measured ban.
THE BIG ISSUE ... PLAYERS NOT GETTING PAID
It's something that seems to happen at least once a tournament in Liga MX, but there's a team whose players aren't getting the salaries they're due. This time around, it's Chiapas' turn.
The players elected not to train earlier this week as a result of not getting their money.
"I want the players to come in with the desire to train, but they're annoyed because there aren't payments," manager Ricardo La Volpe said Thursday. His troops got back on the field after La Volpe himself apparently helped secure the payments.
Players at Veracruz reportedly were in a similar situation, but Tiburones Rojos owner Fidel Kuri tweeted that those reports are not accurate and that he's all paid up.
As far as Chiapas is concerned, the on-field situation seems rather bleak. Jaguares have just five points and head to second-place Leon this weekend.
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