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Match preview: Pumas vs Pachuca

Pumas and Pachuca make their Apertura 2020 debut at Estadio Olimpico Universitario.

Pumas UNAM v Toluca - Torneo Apertura 2019 Liga MX Photo by Carlos Ramirez/Getty Images

A barely improved Pumas will start the 2020 Clausura tournament when they face Pachuca at home. Pumas barely missed the 2019 Apertura Liguilla, although it was a disappointment since they were in prime position to qualify. They missed out after a string of bad results, including an away loss to Pachuca. Monterrey ended up taking the eight spot, and they took it all the way to a title. Pumas will have their first home game since what was the worst game of the last tournament when they only tied FC Juarez by a score of 1-1. Pumas had control of the game and a 1-0 lead when Ignacio Malcorra missed a penalty. Juarez eventually tied and the result pushed Pumas out of Liguilla range for what was a permanent fall.

Pumas are looking to improve and make it to the Liguilla for the first time since the 2018 Apertura. It will be a tough task, especially since their postseason moves left a lot to be desired. Pumas concentrated on getting loans of young players that other teams weren’t using much as well as a couple of MLS signings. Outside of the departure of Martin Rodriguez, most of the players that fans blamed on last season’s failure remained with the team, including new Enemy #1 Ignacio Malcorra. If Pumas’ bet of going with young players like Leonel Lopez, Alejandro Mayorga and Johan Vasquez pays off, it would be a great success. But it might not be enough, especially if Pumas seems to continue the pattern of being extremely dependent on forward Carlos Gonzalez. There seems to be a lot of questions needing to be answered on Sunday, especially if Pumas can continue the base of their success last season: a strong home field advantage.

Pachuca, like Pumas, barely failed to get to the Liguilla. Still it was too much for management, who parted ways with Coach Martin Palermo and replaced him with Paulo Pezzolano. The Uruguayan coach caused controversy as he is only 36 years old and had just a short career as a coach in Uruguay, although it was successful. Pezzolano played one season with Necaxa, but outside of that is a total stranger to Mexican football and many people questioned why a young inexperienced coach gets such a big opportunity. It should be the first test to see if Pachuca’s big gamble is going to pay off, or if Pachuca devalued itself in giving the job away to somebody so early in his career.

Pumas and Pachuca will start their season and thus will be showing their first performance on how they will be looking to bounce back after a terrible end for both teams. Because of the Veracruz contraction, a new calendar started and both teams will have the unique situation of starting the season facing the last team they faced in a Liga MX regular season game. Pumas will need to continue their home field advantage, which was the thing that had them in competition for the Liguilla last season with an average squad and a new coach in Michel Gonzalez. Still it’s as even a matchup for a start of the season, as they could’ve imagined against a Pachuca team that also has a lot of doubts ready to clear.

TV: TUDN 1:00 PM ET/12:00 PM CT