Rewind just a month. Pumas and Club America were at very different places than they are right now, at least gauging by the press and fan feeling surrounding two of Mexico’s “big four.”
Pumas had failed to win their first four Liga MX games, were being escorted off the field accompanied by boos and liquids of dubious origin were even thrown as players headed to the locker rooms.
Fans seemed to have reached the end of their tether with coach Jose Luis Trejo and the club’s hierarchy and it was widely expected that the coach, sporting director and perhaps others would be fired, with the dismal last-placed finish in the Apertura 2013 still fresh in the mind.
New signings like Leandro Augusto, Dante Lopez, Daniel Luduena and Ismael Sosa had underwhelmed and all the talk was of crisis at the club.
But sporting director Mario Trejo stuck by the coach, Pumas started to win, score goals and the atmosphere suddenly changed. The talk at Pumas is now of making the playoffs.
“The mood has changed mentality and soccer-wise we are improved,” Martin Romagnoli told reporters in Mexico City on Thursday.
Over at the Estadio Azteca – just six miles from Pumas’ Ciudad Universitaria in Mexico City – America may be one point above its university rival in the Liga MX and in third place, but there are doubts creeping in about coach Antonio Mohamed, and Las Aguilas come into the game against Pumas having lost consecutive Liga MX regular season games for the first time since April 2012.
Mohamed has stated the recent criticism of his team is unfair and doesn’t think he’s had enough time with the players to be properly judged.
“It makes me laugh,” he said in Thursday’s press conference. “If third place is in crisis, then what about fourth?”
Injuries and suspensions to key players have disrupted the team, but Mohamed’s gradual changes have irked those who want to see America play just as it did under the ever-popular Miguel Herrera.
The America coach, however, added that he is confident of turning the poor run around and that Las Aguilas will be in the playoffs come the end of the season.
The swift change of fortune in both clubs highlight just how quickly things can turn around in the Liga MX and the Mexico City derby on Saturday pitting Televisa-owned America with the traditionally left wing university side will be a more intense affair with both teams so close together in the table.
In terms of recent history though, America is favorite having won the last six games between the two, something Pumas will keen to put right in what is undoubtedly the game of the weekend in Mexico.
Elsewhere in Liga MX this weekend, Cruz Azul is in action on Wednesday in Queretaro looking to extend its unbeaten start to the Clausura 2014, while second-placed Toluca hosts a Chivas team on Sunday coming off the back of consecutive victories.
In the relegation race, last-placed Atlante faces Puebla on Sunday, with Atlas – six points ahead of Los Potros - hosting Monterrey on Saturday.
Freefalling Veracruz makes the trip to Monterrey to play bottom-placed club Tigres.