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Liga MX Talking Points: Pumas against the top, America on home turf and more

Last week saw Pachuca separate itself from the pack and go to the top of the league, while Leon was humbled by the reigning champion. This round, Tigres will look to continue that hot streak while the team it beat in the last final goes up against the league's new top team. 

There's plenty of action ahead and plenty of changes sure to come. Let's take a look at the talking points ahead of round five of the Liga MX Clausura:


IT'S A BIG WEEKEND FOR ... GUILLERMO VAZQUEZ



Pumas manager Guillermo Vazquez had an excellent Apertura, leading the Mexico City side to the runner-up spot after a first-place finish in the regular season. The Clausura has proved more difficult. Los Felinos managed a draw last week but with just one win in four matches enter the weekend in 10th place. That's only after Fidel Martinez rescued a point with a stoppage-time goal against Atlas on Saturday after Eduardo "Lalo" Herrera had a penalty saved.

"Memo" probably isn't in danger of losing his job. He signed a long extension after the previous campaign and has earned plenty of cachet with his history. But fans of this historic team thought their club was set for a long-term return to greatness. Instead, it's been the same struggles that had hounded the team before the Apertura. This round, Pumas host league-leading Pachuca. The back line will have to be better against the Tuzos' furious attack, but a win puts the team right back within striking distance of the top positions in the table. It needs to happen soon with the Copa Libertadores group stage approaching as well. There will be lots of fixtures. Pumas need a momentum boost heading into the busy portion of the calendar.


DON'T MISS ... AMERICA vs. SANTOS LAGUNA

Santos Laguna was the reigning champion during the previous tournament, but you wouldn't have known it by watching the team. The Guerreros fell apart early and never recovered, finishing just two points off the bottom of the table. An opening-round defeat had it looking like things would be the same, but new manager Luis Zubeldia's men have run off three consecutive victories and enter Saturday's contest sitting third.

America has looked convincing away from home but is looking for the first win of the year at the Azteca (more on that later). While a win over prime relegation candidate Dorados doesn't mean much in the long run, the 3-0 result and the ease with which it came served as a morale boost for Nacho Ambriz. Rubens Sambueza still has what it takes to spur on the attack, but the back line will be under far more stress than it was last week. Another storyline to watch is America attackers Oribe Peralta and Darwin Quintero going up against their former Santos teammates. Peralta joined the capital club in the spring of 2014 with Quintero following in the next window.


KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR ... PROBLEMS IN GUADALAJARA



The Clausura playoff series between Guadalajara clubs Atlas and Chivas in the spring of 2015 seems a long time away these days. Both clubs missed the postseason last time around, and this year's Clausura hasn't started too much better.

Of eight matches between the city's two top division team, Atlas' opening-week victory against Queretaro is the only win. Atlas enters week five with four points points to its name while Chivas has three. There is some hope. Both clubs new arrivals are settling in nicely, with Chivas getting production from Orbelin Pineda and Carlos "Gullit" Pena. Atlas goalkeeper Oscar Ustari made a sterling debut against Pumas last week, including a penalty save, after getting up to fitness.

This round, Atlas faces a Puebla team that is coming off of a midweek Copa Libertadores draw and hasn't been too remarkable even on full rest. Chivas will seek its first win when it hosts Toluca on Saturday night.


QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"If they come and ask for players for the national team, with pleasure, they should go. We're not fighting relegation" - Luis Fernando Tena, Leon manager

Luis Fernando Tena has managed a total of zero matches with Leon but already he's on the quote of the week scoreboard. The former Mexico assistant and Cruz Azul manager tossed some serious shade on Chivas, which has made headlines this year with its reluctance to allow players to join the Mexican national team during non-FIFA windows. 

Tena was a midfielder for Chivas during brighter times for the team, which now sits in the penultimate position on the relegation table. With the Dorados floundering, Chivas seems pretty safe, but fans around the league won't mind the gold-medal winner bringing up the danger once again.

While the manager is willing, Juan Carlos Osorio called just one Leon player, Luis Montes, to the team.


THE BIG ISSUE ... WHY AREN'T TEAMS DOING BETTER AT HOME?



Just five of the league's 18 teams have managed to win all the contests they've hosted this season (generally these teams have played two home matches at this point in the campaign).

One of the stranger things about that group is the teams historically are very strong at home. Tijuana's Estadio Caliente was a fortress where Xolos were impossible to beat when the club first entered the top division. Estadio Azteca is so large it is rarely full for America matches, but the stadium's size, mystique and altitude makes it formidable. And Puebla's remodeled facility was a tough place to win at pre-renovation. Chivas' Estadio Omnilife is one of the country's nicest stadium, and fans have started to turn out in huge numbers again.

The teams haven't been bad away from home so far. America has won both of its road contests, Puebla has a win and two draws, and Tijuana has four points from its two games. Chivas hasn't won at home, but hasn't lost either after two draws.

Perhaps referees are paying closer attention to parity. Maybe teams are spending more time getting to know the surfaces and facilities than they used to after noticing the discrepancies. Or are the home clubs adding pressure on themselves to get all three points and falling short of the goals they're setting?

"We have to be strong as the local team," Tijuana forward Dayro Moreno said at a news conference this week. Home fans would certainly welcome a shift back to the norm.

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