Pumas and Veracruz will face each other on Sunday in a game that is of vital importance for both. Pumas’ terrible recent form has seen them drop out of the Liguilla zone, and as such, Francisco Palencia’s men find themselves needing to get points in their final three games, all of them against teams in the middle of the fight against relegation. The game is even more important for Veracruz, who is in last place in the relegation table.
Pumas is coming on the back of a pretty devastating week that started with a home loss against Toluca. An away draw against Atlas followed, and finally, a terrible defeat against Tigres (4-0) in Monterrey.
That said, the worst news for the team wasn't in the defeats but in the injury to Pablo Barrera. Barrera had to go through surgery and will be out for six months. Barrera had been the second best player of the team after Chilean goalscorer Nico Castillo and was more of the leader because of his longer career with the team. To make things worse, Castillo has been injured since his game with Chile against Argentina in March and hasn't played with Pumas since the defeat to Club America.
It's of note that even with all those missed games, Castillo is still on top of the scoring table along with Aviles Hurtado. The possible return of Castillo will really help Pumas’ chances, as well as in the Universitario’s last two games.
Another thing worth nothing is that while it was a tough week for Pumas, they also faced strong rivals. All of them were more or less in the Liguilla zone and two of those games were away from home. Pumas will now face Veracruz, Morelia and Puebla, with only the Morelia game being an away game. The outlook may look good for Pumas, but they have no room for mistakes.
Veracruz is in last place in the relegation table, although it's still VERY close. They are only one point behind both Morelia and Chiapas. They, however, might have the toughest remaining schedule of the three, as they have away games to Pumas and Tijuana and a home game against title contender Monterrey in between. The Pumas game might be the least difficult but they will face a tough game in a place that hasn't been great to them.
Veracruz has a woeful record in Mexico City and especially against Pumas. Their recent activity includes 6-1 and 8-0 defeats. As ever, the altitude, combined with the heat, will make it a tough match-up for them.
There were also reports of a training fight by teammates Kristian Alvarez and “Chuletita” Orozco, although apparently things were resolved. Given that though, things don't look very good for Veracruz. Pumas is facing a relative easier path than in recent weeks. Here, Pumas might benefit from the apparent nervousness of a team that is facing a bigger fall than them, should they lose.
Date: Sunday, April 23
Time: 10:00 AM Pacific, 12:00 PM Central, 01:00 PM Eastern
Venue: Estadio Universitario, Mexico City, Mexico
Television: Univision (US), Univision Deportes Network (US), UnivisionTDN (Mexico)
Streaming: fuboTV (Free trial + monthly subscription)