It's almost time for Week 9 of the 2019 Clausura! Before Liga MX returns with another set of highly anticipated matches, here are three things to watch out for:
Which Chivas will show up vs. Monterrey?
What do we make of Chivas at the halfway point of the regular season?
There are definite signs of progress -- evidenced by their current place in the top four and the 3-0 thrashing of Atlas in the Clasico Tapatio this month -- but there's still something missing. Every time it looks like Los Rojiblancos are beginning to gain some momentum, they then stumble to a lackluster result that inevitably brings up a familiar sense of anxiety and worry from their fan base. It happened in the 1-0 loss to Santos Laguna in late January and also after last week's 3-1 defeat at Pachuca.
Will it happen again against Monterrey this Saturday at home? There's no overlooking the fact that the visiting Rayados will be the favorites at the Estadio Akron. Carried by a powerful attack that features the likes of Rogelio Funes Mori, Maxi Meza and Dorlan Pabon, Monterrey will be one of the biggest tests of the season for Chivas.
Nonetheless, we also shouldn't discount the Guadalajara side. Chivas are improving in 2019 and haven't lost in their last six home games over all competitions. Keeping in mind that four teams are within two points of the fourth-placed club, manager Jose Cardozo should have plenty of motivation to get his inconsistent Chivas roster back on the right track.
Can Angel Mena continue his incredible form with Leon?
Don't let anybody tell you otherwise: Angel Mena has been the best player in Liga MX so far this season.
With seven goals and six assists in eight games for Leon, the Ecuadorian has been lights out in the 2019 Clausura. Week in and week out, Mena has consistently put on a show in Mexico. Up next on his Liga MX tour? A return home to the "Nou Camp," where Leon will host Santos Laguna this Saturday.
Similar to Chivas, there are clear and obvious signs of inconsistency when it comes to Santos Laguna. Although they've started better than most teams, opening 2019 with four wins, Los Guerreros have also settled for a few head-scratching draws against Puebla and Tijuana, as well as slumping to a surprising loss to Lobos BUAP. No longer the intimidating side that lifted a title in the 2018 Clausura, Santos Laguna have much to prove in the new year.
Mena alone will be a difficult test, but in support, the latest Leon star has Jose Juan Macias, Luis Montes and a surprisingly sturdy backline helping him out. Can Los Guerreros be the side that puts a halt to the progress of Mena and Leon?
Can Veracruz end winless streak against listless Toluca?
At the halfway point of the season, Veracruz is left as the only Liga MX club without a victory. Add in that through eight games Los Tiburones Rojos have scored just once and that tells you all you need to know about Veracruz's start. That said, they might not even be the most miserable team in the league at present!
That honor could belong to Toluca. After scuffling to a sixth Liga MX match in a row without a win, ownership decided to drop manager Hernan Cristante on Monday morning. A disappointing start to the CONCACAF Champions League seems to have also played a factor in his firing, as barring a minor miracle Los Diablos Rojos will be knocked out of that competition Thursday night, after suffering a 3-0 defeat to Sporting Kansas City last week in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie.
Toluca is undoubtedly lacking confidence at the moment, which means that Veracruz could take full advantage when they visit Los Diablos Rojos this weekend. If Veracruz can claim a much-needed victory, it would snap a winless Liga MX streak that has amazingly lasted 18 games.