The semi-finals of the Guardianes 2020 Liga MX final phase gets underway this week, and there is a mouthwatering all-Mexico City clash between Cruz Azul and UNAM Pumas on Friday at 3:00am (UK time).
Traditional rivals of both these clubs, Club America, have already been eliminated from the final phase, losing to Guadalajara in an El Super Clasico quarter-final clash last week, while both Cruz Azul and Pumas made it to this stage with wins over Tigres and Pachuca respectively.
The first leg takes place at the iconic Estadio Azteca, the sacred home of Diego Maradona, who lifted the 1986 World Cup at the famous coliseum. The 87000-seated venue is the traditional home of Club America, but Cruz Azul have been shared-tenants since 2018.
And they enter the penultimate round in good nick having finished fourth in the final standings and with a certain Jonathan Rodriguez — the current leading scorer (12) — spearheading Robert Siboldi’s frontline.
Pumas meanwhile will feel they are favourites heading into this contest as the second-seeded club in the final phase, but they just edged past Pachuca 1-0 on aggregate in the quarter-finals, with a second leg that can only be described as underwhelming.
Can Andres Lillini’s men perform similar defensive heroics against leading scorer Rodriguez and take an advantage back to the Estadio Olimpico Universitario for the second leg, or will the Cement Makers hold firm and produce on home soil?
Where to watch Cruz Azul vs Pumas on TV:
- UK: N/A
- US: TUDN USA
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Cruz Azul vs Pumas’s previous line-ups:
- Cruz Azul (vs Tigres): Corona; Escobar, Aguilar, Dominguez, Aldrete; Romo, Baca, Rivero; Alvarado, Hernandez; Rodriguez.
- Pumas (vs Pachuca): Gonzalez; Mozo, Freire, Vasquez, Mayorga; Vigon, Lira, Waller, Gutierrez; Dinenno, Gonzalez.
Pumas remain without veteran goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera and Favio Alvarez. Both players are expected back this month, but this game may have come too soon.
Players to watch:
— Jonathan Rodríguez (@jona2118) December 1, 2020
- Cruz Azul: Jonathan Rodriguez is a man in the form of his life at the minute, and he has managed to translate his regular-season form over to the final phase, scoring a crucial goal in the 3-1 win over Tigres in the first leg of their quarter-final clash. Facing Andre-Pierre Gignac, the highest European scorer in the history of Liga MX, is always a daunting task in Mexican football, but the Frenchman was upstaged by Rodriguez as he fired a blank across both legs. So, with Pumas keeping back-to-back clean sheets in their two-legged tie against Pumas, Cruz Azul will need a player capable of breaking down that watertight defence, and they don’t come much more clinical than the current leading scorer in Liga MX 2020.
- Pumas: Juan Iturbe mustered just two 16-minute cameos against Pachuca across both legs in the quarter-finals as the Cougars ran out 1-0 winners. Lillini placed greater emphasis on keeping things tight at the back, much to the demise of his frontline at times. Cruz Azul are not likely to wither up front as Pachuca did, so Pumas will need a bit of inspiration and spark of their own up top, and that could come in the guise of Iturbe. The Buenos Aires-born Paraguay international has quite the CV, having plied his trade in Serie A with Roma, the Premier League with Bournemouth, as well as the likes of Porto, Torino and River Plate, but he now finds himself on the periphery at Pumas. On his day he can still produce, and Pumas may need some of his vision and skill to break down their cross-city neighbours.
Scoreline prediction: Cruz Azul 2-1 Pumas
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