Pumas will look for a repeat performance as they face Copa MX group rival Lobos BUAP, this time in a winner take all knockout phase game. Pumas and Lobos faced each other in the group stages and each got a home win, which might benefit Pumas who will host the Round of 16 match. Pumas gave their best performance in the Copa MX in that home game against Lobos, as they cruised to a 4-1 win. This, though, should be a tougher game.
Pumas get to this the next round of the Copa MX for the first time since 2013. However, what should be a joyous occasion is anything but, as they have been spiraling out of control in Liga MX. Pumas was on top of the leaderboard and showing some of the best football in Mexico. But things changed after what many people expected to be Pumas’s easiest game of the season. On a Wednesday night, facing relegation troubled Veracruz, Pumas 2-1 at home, ending their undefeated season. They have failed to win a single Liga MX game since, and they went from being on top of the leaderboard, to out of the Liguilla qualification zone. The latest game was a very bad 3-0 loss in Leon, in which they were totally outplayed and where frustration boiled over to the point that captain Pablo Barrera cursed at the coached and kicked a bunch of Gatorade bottles. Their only win since that game was the Lobos BUAP 4-1 game, a week after Veracruz defeated them, and it might be a lifeline that can turn back the momentum of the season. But the pressure is building and a loss in that game would not only eliminate Pumas from the Copa MX, but add to the pressure the team is facing.
On the other side is Lobos BUAP, who is in a fight against relegation. While it’s true that the Liga MX owners have chosen to suspend relegation, this decision will only take effect until the next season. Lobos BUAP was flying high after defeating their biggest relegation rival, Veracruz, 5-0 at home. The win seemed to lift up Lobos but then they lost in Tijuana a week later. That said, the fact that Veracruz keeps losing means that Lobos BUAP is still in a good place.
While it’s true that Pumas dominated their previous game against the Poblanos, that week Lobos BUAP took on Veracruz and it can be argued that they had all their eyes set on that game and not against Pumas. Lobos is a team that goes forward and have a lot of fight, something that might give trouble to a Pumas team low in confidence.
In terms of Copa MX, these are the do or die games and the winner will go through to the Quarterfinals. Pumas will need to improve a lot to change the funk they currently are on. A win against Lobos would help a lot, and being at home means they are favored to get the victory. Still, it will be a tough game and it has all the conditions to become another trap game for Pumas.
Date: Wednesday March 7
Time: 6:55pm Pacific, 8:55pm Central, 9:55pm Eastern
Venue: Estadio Olímpico de Universitario, Mexico City, Mexico
TV: Fox Sports 2 Cono Norte (Mexico), ESPN2 Norte (Mexico), TDN (Mexico)