Pumas vs Pachuca – Sunday 10 am PT/ 1pm Estadio Olímpico Universitario – Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico City.
The Liga MX season finally kicks off this weekend and our match of the weekend takes us to the capital where Pumas UNAM will host Pachuca at the Ciudad Universitaria. For both teams, this will be a big game especially as they both missed out on the Liguilla in the 2016-17 Clausura season.
Pumas stormed into the season on the back of an impressive performance by new star striker Nicolás Castillo and seemed a sure fire bet to reach the Liguilla. The team then collapsed in the closing stages of the Clausura season and managed just one point out of their last six games. As a result, many experts believed that head coach Francisco Palencia would be released from his job.
The Pumas board, however, stuck to their guns and have now opted in giving Palencia another run. The 44-year-old head coach is a flamboyant character known for his love of heavy metal music is always well dressed on the sidelines. His football philosophy somewhat reflects his music taste.
Pumas play a chaotic and unpredictable style of football. When on form the side is one of the best to watch in Liga MX. Unfortunately, it is the sort of football that can also backfire when players are not on form and Palencia will have to show that he has learned from last season’s mistakes by guiding the team back into the Liguilla.
Pachuca in the meantime also lost out on the Liguilla. At the same time, the team won the CONCACAF Champions League in the spring, and head coach Diego Alonso, therefore, escaped major criticism. Having been in charge since 2014, Alonso won the 2016 Clausura and the 2017 Champions League with the club.
Pachuca are, however, one of the biggest teams in Mexican football and are therefore expected to return to the Liguilla this season. They will have to accomplish this task with superstar Hirving Lozano, who was sold to PSV Eindhoven in the offseason. In his stead Pachuca have brought in the Chilean national team players Édson Puch (Necaxa) and Angelo Sagal (Huachipato) as well as Japanese national team player Keisuke Honda).
With plenty of fire power available to them, both sides will go all out in what could become a regular Mexican standoff. In the end, Pachuca have slightly more talent up front though and are therefore the more likely of the two teams to win the game.
Pumas vs Pachuca – Players to look out for:
Nicolás Castillo #30 – Pumas UNAM
Nicolás Castillo looked like a sure thing for Chile’s 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup squad. The Chilean had taken the Liga MX by storm when he arrived in the winter and scored eight goals in 12 matches. The problem, however, was that his scoring rate slowed down significantly during the end of the season. As a result, he did not make the final cut for Chile’s national team that travelled to Russia this summer. Still only aged 24 Castillo will, therefore, want to prove that last season was not a fluke and that he can become a prime striker in Liga MX.
Keisuke Honda #2 – Pachuca
Keisuke Honda signing for Pachuca is perhaps the transfer of the summer for Liga MX. Only six months ago Honda was destined to head to Major League Soccer where Seattle Sounders all but concluded a deal with AC Milan to land the Japanese midfielder. The 30-year-old was the perfect candidate for MLS surplus material at a major european club, but at the same time still in his prime and from the Japanese market that MLS wants to explore long term. The deal, however, fell apart and Honda has now signed for Pachuca. At Pachuca Honda is expected to fill the hole left by Hirving Lozano on the field and to help Liga MX to break into the popular Japanese market off the field.
Pumas vs Pachuca – Match Stats
- Alfredo Saldívar saves just 67.7% of the shots he faced last season.
- Pumas conceded more goals (30) than anyone else in the 2016-17 Clausura.
- Pumas had the second worst goal aggregate behind relegated Chiapas.
- Pumas picked up just one point from their last six Clausura games.
- Pachuca finished tenth in the Clausura.
- Pachuca lost five out of nine games on the road.
Prediction: Pumas vs Pachuca 2-4
Pumas vs Pachuca – Possible Lineups
Saldivar – Alcoba, van Rankin, García – Formica, Cabrera, Gonzalez, Rabello – Gallardo, Castillo, Barrera
Coach: Francisco Palencia
Perez – Garcia, Herrera, Murillo, Aguirre – Gutiérrez, Hernandez – Gomez, Honda, Puch – Sagal
Coach: Diego Alonso
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.