Game: Cruz Azul vs. Tigres UANL
Date: Saturday, August 4th
Time: 10:00 PM Eastern, 9:00 PM Central, 7:00 PM Pacific, 2:00 AM UTC
Venue: Estadio Azteca (Mexico City)
If Cruz Azul hosting Tigres UANL at the Estadio Azteca on Saturday night wasn’t already the biggest matchup of Jornada 3 it surely is following Cruz Azul coach Pedra Caixinha’s controversial pre-match press conference remarks about the visitors.
In his pre-match press conference Caixinha was asked whether or not he believed that Tigres UANL deserved to be considered a “grande” in Liga MX following the last decade or so in which el equipo felino has been one of- if not the most dominant team. In a rather controversial fashion, the Cruz Azul coach announced that he felt as though Tigres doesn’t deserve to even be featured in the conversation about Mexico’s “4 Grandes.” Caixinha later went on to say that in his opinion, “One decade of good results and strong teams doesn’t merit an institution like Tigres to be considered one of the ‘Grandes’ in Liga MX.”
Tuca Ferretti and his Tigres squad might not care too much about the controversial remarks made by Pedro Caixinha prior to Saturday night’s match. Ferretti has long made it clear that he doesn’t care who considers his club “grande.” For the Brazilian coach, the actions of his team on the pitch speak far louder than the opinions of pundits, fans, and other coaches in the league. However, that doesn’t mean that the Mexican media and fans are going to let the Cruz Azul coach get away with making such a controversial statement. Moments after Caxinha had made these remarks, social media was abuzz with fans and pundits debating the validity of the remarks. However, the general consensus was that Caixinha had no right to make such a comment when the team that he currently coaches hasn’t won a league title in well over 20 years and are only considered one of the “4 Grandes” because of their heroics in the 1980’s.
Apart from Caixinha’s controversial pre-match comments, this match is surely going to be a tough test for both sides. For Cruz Azul, this match is entirely about proving to the world that the newly strengthened squad is a serious contender for the Liga MX title. In their first two matches of the season, the new look Cruz Azul have played every bit like the “grande” that they are supposed to be. A Jornada 1 goleada over Puebla and a tough victory over Chivas de Guadalajara in less than ideal conditions have fans of la Maquina once again dreaming of glory.
A major key for la Maquina is the recent phenomenal play of new boy Elias Hernández. Through the first two Liga MX matches of the 2018 Apertura tournament, Hernández has been the stand out player on a much improved Cruz Azul side. Everything positive from la Maquina has gone through Hernández. So far, the Mexican winger has a goal and assist to his name as testament of the way that he has been playing.
Tuca Ferretti and Tigres will need to figure out a way to replace Andre-Pierre Gignac who will be unavailable for Saturday night’s match due to illness. According to Tigres officials, Gignac has some sort of infection that has caused him to maintain an abnormally high body temperature and as a result did not travel with the team to Mexico City.
While the absence of Gignac is sure to put pressure on Tigres, there are plenty of quality players in the squad capable of taking the Frenchman’s spot and not missing a beat. In all likelihood it will be Ecuadorian attacker Enner Valencia replacing Gignac in the starting lineup. Valencia and the rest of the Tigres attack will have to step up if they want to make sure that the absence of the Frenchman isn’t felt too strongly against Cruz Azul.
Ferretti will be hoping that his squad will use the absence of Gignac and the controversial remarks made by Pedro Caixinha as motivation to give a much better display than last weekend against Xolos. If it weren't for the individual quality of Andre-Pierre Gignac that match could have easily ended 0-0 despite Tigres maintaining the majority of possession and being the stronger side all match long. Another performance like that and Tigres could find themselves on the wrong end of the scoreline.