Pumas will try to keep their grip on first place when they face relegation troubled Veracruz at home. The game will feature the return of Veracruz coach Guillermo Vasquez to Pumas’ Olympic stadium, where he coached and gave the team their last Liga MX title in 2011. Pumas will be heavily favored at home against the team that would be relegated if the tournament ended today. Veracruz, though, has played better than the results have shown and a team in the middle of the relegation battle will always be tough, even for a team that is battling for first place.
Pumas has been the surprise team of the tournament. While most people thought they would struggle after finishing last place last season, Pumas has taken the league by storm. The partnership of Nicolas Castillo and Matias Alustiza has changed the team and has been key in having the team go top. The return of Pablo Barrera and the addition of defender Alejandro Arribas has also helped Pumas be the one of, if not the best team of the tournament so far. Coach David Patiño has helped create a solid team that plays well on both the offensive and defensive end.
The Universitarios are coming in on the back of solid victories against Tigres at home and away to Morelia but will still face a touch challenge against a team fighting for its future. Pumas must not be overconfident against a team that has shown a lot of fight, especially when that team is coached by a guy who made his career in that very stadium and knows Pumas very well.
Veracruz will come in to this game as a complete underdog. Not only are they in last place, but they have a particularly terrible history playing in Mexico City. To make matters worse, they will face a team that not only has been the one of the best in the tournament, but who last played on Friday, while they did so on Sunday. Still, Veracruz has been a better team that their results have shown. They were the better team against Santos and were unlucky to give a last minute penalty that tied that game. They had even worse luck on Sunday when they totally outplayed Pachuca but when down 1-0. In between those games, they went to Queretaro and defeated their direct rivals for the relegation. Under coach Vasquez, they have improved from last season and will have a coach that knows Pumas like few coaches in Mexico do. However, if Pumas play at their level, they will need all the breaks in their favor. The big possibility of overconfidence from a Pumas team flying high is their best opportunity for a positive result.
The game has a high possibility of becoming a trap game for Pumas. Veracruz will be a tough match, but if the Universitarios play at the level they have shown so far, they should come out with a win and return to the top spot. But Coach Patiño will need his team to be ready physically and mentally for a match that too many people have written off as a sure W.
Date: Wednesday February 14
Time: 7:00pm Pacific, 9:00pm Central, 10:00pm Eastern
Venue: Estadio Olímpico de Universitario, Mexico City, Mexico
TV: Galavision(US-Spanish), TDN (Mexico)
Streaming: fuboTV (Free trial + monthly subscription)