After getting off to a rough start to this new season, losing their first two matches, Juan Reynoso found a way to right the ship and Cruz Azul now find themselves atop the league table, winners of five straight, and looking to make it six tonight in the home of the current champs. León, on the other hand, have struggled right out of the gate as well, but unlike Cruz Azul, are yet to find that key ingredient to help jump start their season and get rolling, like they have for the past two years. Through six matches thus far (with a game in hand), León have only accounted for 7 points, good enough for 15th in the league table. It’s been some time since we last saw León in this part of the table this deep into a season.
However, streaks are meant to be broken, and this is especially true for a club like Cruz Azul over the past 20+ years. Here are five reasons why León will get their season back on track tonight:
- “Cabecita” Rodríguez has been ruled out. This is the least of my worries. In no way do I believe Cruz Azul’s fate is decided by whether Rodríguez plays or not, as he isn’t that type of difference maker. With that said, he does have an impact to a certain degree on this offense and his absence is noticed. He definitely adds depth and quality to this club on the offensive end. The fact he’s out due to muscular issues will affect the club tonight, as they have no one on the bench to really make up for him.
- León have actually played well this season. At least in a couple matches, specifically the Pachuca and the Chivas ones, León deserved a much more positive outcome. They dominated throughout most of the match and easily created the most dangerous opportunities that they’ve managed to put away in previous seasons. The difference in this season is they haven’t capitalized on those chances, ending in a scoreless tie with Pachuca, and Chivas putting the final dagger in them in the dying minutes of the match. With a little more luck, León could’ve evened things up and even won the match. Their attack has looked sharp during important stretches; it’s been the defense that has let them down.
- Cruz Azul fold under pressure in high profile matches. During the regular season, Cruz Azul has managed to defeat pretty much anybody, raising the bar season after season and making their fans belive time and time again that “this is the season.” For that reason, there is a chance Cruz Azul wins tonight. With that being said, La Máquina have been the underdogs for most of the season after their slow start. Not much was expected from them and they’ve suddenly put together this five-game winning streak and are now league-leaders. Suddenly, they’ve recaptured that ‘favorite’ status, and just in time as they head into the champ’s house, who by the way, haven’t played half bad. Luck just hasn’t smiled at them of yet. This is a high pressure, ‘prove you’re for real’ moment. Judging from what I’ve seen from them in the past in this type of match, I predict Cruz Azul won’t live up to it despite their new head coach and supposed changed mentality.
- León are still the champs. That’s right. They didn’t just luck themselves into the championship last season. It was a result of two years of consistency and excellence displayed by Ambriz’s squad. I don’t expect them to throw it away just like that. León’s pride will come out tonight and they will not allow more visitors to disrespect them at home after Chivas broke their 31-game unbeaten streak in their last home outing.
- The match is in León. Like I just said, before their last home game against Chivas almost three weeks ago, León were riding a 31-game unbeaten streak at home. 31 games. Tonight, the game is played in, yes, you guessed it, León. Nou Camp has been a nightmare for rivals over the past two years and I don’t expect it to be any different tonight.
What is for sure is we should be in for an exciting one as we get to see two of the top clubs over the past 2-3 years going at it. After defeating Pumas on the road last week, I believe León has woken up in a sense, and I’ve been saying all along that it’s only a matter of time for Nacho Ambriz and his players to get back on track. You don’t all of a sudden forget how to win after being the best at it for the past two years. And this might just be the win León need to regain confidence and regain that championship-contender status they’ve grown so accustomed to.