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Chivas are the slight favorites here, but that bigger return on a tie is too good to pass up. While each team can make a case for themselves, they are also both in a similar position that lacks cohesion and confidence.
No Liga MX side attracts as much drama as Chivas. Arguably the most popular team in Mexico and in all of North America, the Guadalajara-based club has gone through positive COVID-19 tests, the firing of a manager, and player suspensions (due to partying) all within the first six games of the season.
Although they are a team that should eventually make a case for themselves as a strong playoff contender, last week’s 1-0 loss to Toluca highlighted the growth that still needs to be made.
As for Pachuca, there isn’t the same kind of drama, but there are similar problems when focusing on what’s happening just on the field. An average attack and an adjustment to newly acquired players have made this season a work in progress for Pachuca. Even in their latest 4-3 win, Pachuca needed a penalty in the 94th minute to avoid a draw against Mazatlan, the worst team in the league.
In theory, we should be discussing the exciting potential of a number of Chivas’ players. A quick look at their roster reveals a core of developing talents that could make serious waves in the future of the Mexican soccer world.
Instead, the recent talking point has been the suspension of two players: Alexis Vega and Uriel Antuna. After posting a video of the partying together 48 hours before the loss to Toluca, both Vega and Antuna were subsequently dropped from the gameday squad.
Although captain Jesus Molina has brought them back into the fold, the latest Chivas drama follows the firing of former manager Luis Fernando Tena just a couple of weeks earlier.
These events impact results, and as seen in the latest loss, it hinders the progress that the team has been trying to make.
Despite intriguing pieces in their squad, manager Paulo Pezzolano has yet to find out his exact best XI. Only five players have been included in every starting roster, leaving many like Erick Sanchez, Ismael Sosa, Rodrigo Salinas, and Colin Kazim-Richards on and off the bench.
As mentioned earlier, this is understandable due to Pezzolano attempting to work through and test his new options, but it has also helped create inconsistencies in a season with a lackluster total of three wins in six games.
In the case of Chivas, new coach Victor Manuel Vucetich only has two games under his belt and is attempting to piece together the mess left by those in charge. After trying a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1 — and different players as well due to suspensions — it’s still perplexing to guess what the manager will attempt to do this weekend.
Pachuca has a more concrete strategy through what is likely to be a 4-3-3 formation, but the utilization of certain players also remains unclear. Does Pezzolano stick with goalless striker Roberto de la Rosa? Will the highly talented Ismael Sosa finally earn another assist after looking more like a super-sub?
Freelance writer Cesar Hernandez is a specialist in all things American and Mexican soccer. He has written for ESPN FC, The Athletic, The Guardian, FourFourTwo, VICE Sports and several other publications. Along with writing and previous radio appearances on the BBC, talkSPORT and SiriusXM FC, Cesar is also a member of the Mexican Soccer Show podcast.
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