Querataro and Pumas will face each other tonight in a key match for both teams. Pumas will hope to continue a very positive start for them, but will have to do so without striker Juan Igancio Dinenno. Queretaro will hope to improve for their second consecutive home game, as Coach Hector Altamirano would like the same result as last week’s victory against Atlas but with an improved performance on the field.
Coming into this season, Club Queretaro’s expectations looked low. The prior season they had surprised many by being a candidate to make the repechaje even when their squad was considered to be among the weakest in Mexico. After being sold by owners Grupo Caliente, the team was raided by them as the best players went to Tijuana, the other team that Grupo Caliente owns. Queretaro was filled with players from Liga de Ascenso, Atlante (owned by the same group who bought Queretaro), and with young coach Alex Diego they got some very surprising wins. Big wins at home against Cruz Azul, America, and Toluca had the team thinking of making it to the Liguilla but they eventually dropped too many points, and to the surprise of almost everybody Diego was fired. New Coach Hector Altamirano made his coaching debut in Liga MX with the team, but it came too late in the season to make an impact. Coming into this season, Queretaro didn’t make any significant additions besides the return of Jefferson Montero and the media-rattling signing of ex Ecuadorean international Luis Antonio Valencia. Valencia was a major star with Ecuador and Manchester United, but his recent performances in LDU Quito weren’t the best. Queretaro made a good start to their season in which they lost 3-1 against Toluca, but could make the case that they were severely hurt by a bad job from referee Adalid Maganda, who disallowed what looked like a valid goal and failed to gave a clear penalty even when both situations were checked by VAR. Then they would get a late win at home against Atlas by a 1-0 score. Although Queretaro got the better result, their level of play was very inferior to that shown by Toluca and they barely got the win over a just as poor Atlas. While Altamirano would prefer to get the result, a similar level of play against a better team like Pumas is probably not going to be enough to get another victory.
Pumas had a magical past season in which a team that lost their coach a week prior to the tournament and whose squad wasn’t seen anywhere near the best squads. They turned out to be good enough to get to the Liga MX final after an historic turnaround in the semifinals, where they came back from losing the first leg against Cruz Azul 4-0, only to qualify by beating them 4-0 at home. Yet after the end of the season, they had to sell their star striker Carlos Gonzalez because of financial problems. This season they were expected to have a decline because of this, although due to the fact that they held on to the other top striker Juan Ignacio Dinenno, they looked to at least be expected to get to the Liguilla again. Their debut away to Tijuana was a lively game that unfortunately ended 0-0 even when Pumas missed some great opportunities. They then went back home and had the best performance of the second week in Liga MX by getting a 3-0 win over Mazatlan FC. Unfortunately for them, Dinenno got injured and had to go out. Luckily for Pumas however, top prospect Emanuel Montejano made his Liga MX debut by assisting in a goal and then scoring his first league goal. It was a great debut but Dinenno’s injury will keep him out for a couple of games and although Montejano looked good, it will still be a big burden to have to carry most of the weight of the team’s offense after only one game in Liga MX. They will also have the fallout after Alan Mozo got caught drinking and going out to a restaurant, violating COVID-19 rules, which caused an internal suspension. Pumas looks to be favored in this game, but they will need to show what they are made of now without Dinenno or Mozo.
Even when they are the away team, Pumas should be favored. In a match between two coaches who made their Liga MX debut last season, Andres Lillini looks to have the upper hand and the better team. Still it will be a tough mathchup especially with the trouble up top. Should Pumas clear the hurdle, it will make things a lot brighter for the rest of the season.
Game: Querétaro Fútbol Club vs. Club Universidad Nacional A.C.
Date: Sunday, January 24th
Time: 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Central, 5:00 p.m. Pacific, 1:00 a.m. UTC
Venue: Estadio Corregidora (Queretaro, Qro.)
Referees: REF: Fernando Hernandez Gomez, AR1: Jimmy Acosta Montesinos, AR2: Leonardo Javier Castillo Rodríguez, 4TH: Mario Humberto Vargas Mat, VAR: Eduardo Galvan Basulto, AVAR: José Alfredo Peñaloza Soto
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