After Wednesday night's loss on the road to Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal, Cruz Azul return home on Saturday night for a chance to rebound against Toluca. The midweek 3-1 loss to the Rayados was a disappointing outing for Cruz Azul, especially as it came directly following a huge Clasico Joven win over Club America last Sunday. A big factor in both matches was Christian "Chaco" Gimenez. On Sunday, Gimenez set up striker Emanuel Villa for both goals in the win at Estadio Azteca. On Wednesday, though, Chaco didn't take the field. Serving a suspension for two yellow cards in the CCL quarterfinals, Gimenez could only look on as the Cruz Azul offense stalled to a halt. As talented as they are, this Cruz Azul team relies heavily on the leadership of Gimenez, as well as his skill directing the attack. Luckily for Cruz Azul fans, he will be back with the team on Saturday night.
Toluca comes into the match having just gotten back on their feet. The Red Devils finally ended an embarrassing string of results with a 3-1 win over Santos last weekend. That result ended a three game losing streak in league games in which Toluca gave up an astonishing 13 goals. Add their two CCL quarterfinal losses to Monterrey, and Toluca had dropped five straight prior to last weekend. Now finally with a win under their belts, Toluca look to take another step forward with a result on the road at Estadio Azul. A lot of questions are still swirling around the job status of Toluca manager Sergio Lugo, and he would love another win on Saturday to keep the wolves at bay.
Look for Cruz Azul to attack early against Toluca. After coming out incredibly flat on Wednesday night, La Maquina need to press the action from the opening whistle. This will put a lot of pressure on the Toluca backline, a unit that has struggled mightily over the last month. For Toluca to be successful this season, they desperately need to reclaim their defensive identity from the first six weeks of the year - an undefeated stretch where they conceded just one goal. Toluca did a decent job containing Santos last week, but the Cruz Azul attack is an entirely different animal.
A result is of equal importance to both teams, with each club currently tied for second place in their respective group’s standings. Toluca are one point behind Club America and tied with San Luis for second in Group 2. Cruz Azul are tied with Monarcas Morelia for second place of Group 3 behind Pumas UNAM. The packed schedule has made things difficult for Cruz Azul over the past few weeks, and they may have to rest a few players Saturday night. Not that that gives Toluca any significant advantage. Cruz Azul is a team with loads of depth, and also one that has yet to lose a match at home this year. With Gimenez returning, and Toluca still somewhat regrouping, Cruz Azul should be able to take care of business against the Red Devils Saturday night at home.
Cruz Azul vs. Toluca, 7pm est, TV Azteca and ESPN Deportes