It's all about a clasico this week, but it wouldn't be a week of Mexican soccer without drama finding Chivas (or vice versa).
We'll start with the latter, move into the former and give a few more talking points ahead of Round 7 of the Liga MX Clausura:
IT'S A BIG WEEKEND FOR ... MATIAS ALMEYDA
It's almost like the Mexican soccer media talks about Chivas too much. Almost. It may be tiresome to have the league's 15th-placed team, one of three without a win yet this campaign, continue to dominate the headlines. But the fact is Chivas is one of Mexico's largest clubs and interest surrounding the team is huge.
Things happen at Chivas that just don't happen anywhere else. One of those things is the manager coming out to say that, yes, another team wants him to come manage, and no, he's not going to take the job. That same week another manager, former Chile boss Jorge Sampaoli, says he heard from Chivas. Where there's smoke, there seems to be fire, yet owner Jorge Vergara came out strongly against those rumors.
"I don't think that Sampaoli is a liar, but if somebody talked to him, it's a lie that they were from Chivas," owner Jorge Vergara said Thursday. "Nobody from Chivas talked to him, nobody from Chivas has talked to him. It's very clear, they tricked him if he talked to somebody. We haven't talked to him and we aren't going to talk to him. We're not interested and we're not going to change managers. It's a total lie.
That puts the pressure on Almeyda this weekend, with Chivas headed to Chiapas to face Jaguares on Saturday night. It's not easy to get a win in the jungle, but Chiapas is one of the only clubs that has fared worse than Chivas so far this season. Jaguares started out the tournament with a win over last-place Dorados and have failed to get another victory in eight tries across league and cup. It's a winnable match for Almeyda, and even if Sampaoli isn't headed for Guadalajara, another manager might take the position if Chivas can't beat lowly Jaguares.
Chivas won't get relegated this tournament; Dorados are too bad for that to happen. But in the system set up to help Mexico's biggest teams, a Clausura of continued failure guarantees the club will still be fighting against the drop in the future.
DON'T MISS ... AMERICA vs. CRUZ AZUL
This rivalry between two of Mexico City's clubs is called the Clasico Joven. Though the term has outlived its accuracy, these teams will never match the longevity America and Chivas have in hating each other. Nevertheless, there's still plenty of bad blood between them, and the Clausura's contest should be better than the majority of other rivalries this season (Monterrey-Tigres will give it a run for its money in a few weeks).
Club America managed just a draw away from home last weekend against Veracruz and will hope to connect on the attack like it did two weeks ago against Santos Laguna in the Azteca instead of having the issues it did in Round 6. Cruz Azul has been miserable in recent tournaments, but there's reason for hope for the visiting fans. Goalkeeper Jesus Corona has helped his side to three consecutive undefeated matches.
America also is undefeated in its last three and is a much more talented team than the three Cruz Azul snagged results against. If La Maquina can get a result in the Azteca, it will be strong evidence they're a Liguilla contender. Failure will increase the cynicism that Tomas Boy's men's supposed renaissance is dud.
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR ... LIBERTADORES MOMENTUM? OR FATIGUE?
Mexico's two teams remaining in the Copa Libertadores both went down to 10 men but still rallied for victories. Toluca topped Brazil's Gremio, 2-0, while Pumas got past Emelec of Ecuador by a 4-2 mark. The turnaround for the teams, both of which largely played their top sides, is pretty quick. After Wednesday's win, the Red Devils of Toluca are headed to Guanajuato to face Leon. Pumas host Santos Laguna.
Sometimes the difficulties of matches in quick succession seems overblown. Last week, Pachuca's Hirving Lozano and Rodolfo Pizarro starred for the national team and followed up with a huge second-half performance at the club level. But when everyone on the team is involved, fatigue can set in.
With both teams currently outside the playoff places, and with many more matches to come, snagging three points this weekend would be excellent for both momentum and to try to bank as many points as possible before the schedule becomes even busier. Can they carry the momentum through or will they run out of gas?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"I wish we were Barcelona, playing beautifully, but we're not Barcelona. We're Veracruz" - Veracruz defender Rodrigo Noya
Veracruz defender Rodrigo Noya has no illusions about what his team is capable of. It's been a very bad season so far on the Atlantic coast, and questions about style of play seems to be out of place. The Argentine would love for the team to be putting together lovely pieces of play. Instead, the Tiburones Rojos have managed no victories.
This week's trip to league-leading Monterrey doesn't give a ton of reason to think they'll be able to reverse their fortunes, though Veracruz did hold championship-contender America to a draw last week.
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