Liga MX W2W4: Pachuca enters post-Erick Gutierrez era; Santos-Toluca meet in Final rematch
Matchweek 8 of the 2018-19 Liga MX Apertura is upon us. Here are the games and storylines our Liga MX correspondents Tom Marshall, Cesar Hernandez and Eric Gomez are looking forward to this weekend in Mexico.
'Post-Guti' Pachuca aims to extend run vs. confident Chivas
Pachuca's sale of captain Erick Gutierrez to PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday was widely applauded, but for Tuzos coach Pako Ayestaran it represented a significant weakening of his midfield.
The first game in the post-Gutierrez era for Pachuca comes against Chivas on Saturday in Estadio Akron and won't be easy. Chivas has been grinding out results of late, steadily improving and building up confidence after a rough summer and poor start to the 2018 Apertura.
Ayestaran will have to think long and hard about how to replace Gutierrez, with youngster Pablo Lopez a possibility, as could be utilizing Erick Aguirre in a central role, where he started off with first club Morelia. Other than that, there could even be a change of formation from the Spaniard, with former Leicester City striker Leo Ulloa potentially coming in alongside Franco Jara in more of a 4-4-2 formation. We'll see.
For Chivas, Jose Cardozo seems to have found his best XI over the last few games, but has a headache in the goalkeeping department, with Raul Gudino injured and reserve keeper Miguel Jimenez a doubt for Saturday. Third goalkeeper Antonio Torres could be in line for first Liga MX appearance, having debuted in the cup on Tuesday.
This game pits two of the league's form sides against each other, and ones that tend to give opportunities to young Mexican players. It's a game Mexico fans should definitely be watching, with Aguirre, Victor Guzman and Chivas trio Alan Pulido, Angel Zaldivar and Orbelin Pineda all in the squad to face Uruguay and the United States. -- Tom Marshall
Toluca vs. Santos meet again for the first time since last season's final
The Clausura 2018 final between Toluca and Santos was one of Liga MX's most exciting championship deciders in a long time. This season's regular season game should be enough to rekindle at least a little of that emotion.
Santos Laguna, the eventual title winners, remain as one of the league's top teams despite losing a good chunk of what drove them to their sixth league win in May. Gone are Carlos Izquierdoz, Djaniny, Nestor Araujo and even coach Robert Siboldi. Despite the subtractions, the green-and-whites remain in the upper echelon of Mexican football with crisp, stylish offensive play and stout defensive work.
They go into this weekend's match in third place with 14 points overall following a strong start to the season after seven matches. In front, they'll face Toluca, who have not suffered the same fate as their opponents, in that they've been able to keep most players as for the Apertura 2018 campaign.
However, the results have not been exactly the same for them as we near the end of the season's first half. After seven games, Toluca sits eighth, with 10 points and three wins, one draw and three losses.
After a solid start, the Diablos Rojos are winless in their last three Copa and Liga MX matches. To achieve a win against Santos Laguna, the ten-time Liga MX winners must find a way to stop their potent attack, led by Julio Furch and Jonathan Rodriguez. -- Eric Gomez
Tigres ready to pounce on embattled Atlas
If you're tired of draws and more in the mood for a one-sided Liga MX battle this weekend, look no further than Saturday's match between Tigres and Atlas.
Let's first start with Atlas, who has so far been the most abysmal and depressing team in the first half of the 2018 Apertura. Not only are Los Rojinegros the only Liga MX squad without a win, but also the only one without a single goal as well. After launching a total of 117 shots and missing two penalties, Atlas has somehow failed to find the back of the net.
As for Tigres, Saturday's game will be a perfect opportunity for manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti to truly flex his muscle. After an unexciting start to the Apertura, Tigres now appear ready to kickoff their usual strong finish to the tournament. At this point, it is now common and expected for the Monterrey club to have a commanding run in the latter stages of every season after struggling to make an impact early on.
With an immense amount of attacking firepower in Tigres' roster, it wouldn't be much of a shock if superstars such as Andre-Pierre Gignac and Eduardo Vargas completely demolish an Atlas side that has already collected five losses in its last seven games. Barring a minor miracle for Atlas, things might get ugly for the Guadalajara club that is currently sitting at the very bottom of the league table. -- Cesar Hernandez