Pumas vs Toluca – Sunday 10 am PT/ 1pm Estadio Olímpico Universitario – Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico City.
In Liga MX, all eyes will be on the Friday night fixture between Club Tijuana and Club América. But it could be the Sunday fixture between Pumas and Toluca that will be the most fascinating to watch.
Toluca actually go into this matchday leading the Liga MX Clausura. The Los Diablos Rojos have easily taken the mantle as the biggest surprise of the closing stage of the 2016-17 Liga MX. Of course, the setup of Mexican football means that finishing first does not mean that you are the favourite for the title.
Finishing first would simply give Toluca the right to play the lowest ranked team in the closing stage in the first round of the Liguilla. While this can be an advantage, the competitiveness of the league, where last can easily beat first on any given matchday, playing the lowest ranked team in the first round of the playoffs only gives you a small advantage—Tijuana, for example, finished the Apertura in first place, but then lost in the first round to León.
Whether Toluca will actually finish in first spot is another story, however, for Los Diablos Rojos were, after all, considered one of the outsiders going into this season. The club finished the Apertura outside the playoffs and, with six remaining games and the bulk of the strong teams following them, there is a high probability that Toluca will drop out of the top spot.
The club is celebrating their centenary this season and have, therefore, invested in experience in order to win a trophy to top off the celebrations. Travelling to Mexico City where they will face Pumas will, in fact, be a massive task for them. Pumas, who are owned by the National Autonomous University of Mexico, play some of the most exciting football not only in Mexico, but also, perhaps, in the entire Americas.
Head coach, Francisco Palencia, is known for his taste in metal music and, like Jürgen Klopp, who made headlines with his claim that he wanted to play heavy metal football, Palencia prefers a high pressing game that places emphasis on scoring rather than defending. In fact, only Tijuana, with 24 goals, have outscored Pumas’ 20 goals in the closing stage of the 2016-17 Liga MX season.
At the same time, Pumas, easily identified by the large white Puma head printed on their shirts, have also leaked goals in the back. With a goal differential of 20-17, Pumas’ games are always entertaining to watch and, with this in mind, you can expect several goals.
Pumas vs Toluca – Players to look out for:
Nicolás Castillo #30 – Pumas UNAM
Nico Castillo has already been featured on this homepage on several occasions. The Chilean forward has take Liga MX by storm since joining Pumas from Universidad Católica this winter. Castillo has scored eight goals in nine Liga MX games, and currently leads the Clausura in scoring.
Fernando Uribe #20 – Toluca
Fernando Uribe is Toluca’s top scorer in the Clausura. The Colombian forward has scored four goals this season. Toluca’s greatest strength this season has been the club’s depth, with several players performing above expectations. Despite Toluca’s depth up front, Uribe has become a key player, and he will have to continue his form if Toluca want to reach the later stages of the playoffs.
Pumas vs Toluca – Match Stats
- Toluca are the oldest team in Liga MX with an average age of 30.8.
- 17 of Pumas’ 20 goals have come in the second half.
- Nico Castillo is the league’s top scorer.
Prediction: Pumas vs Toluca 3-2
Saldivar – Mendoza, Alcoba, Verón, García – Gonzalez, Escamilla, Barrera – Castillo, Rabello, Gallardo
Coach: Francisco Palencia
Talavera – Velarde, González, da Silva, Salinas – Mendez, Rios – Barrientos, Hauche, Esquivel – Uribe
Coach: Hernán Cristante