When the calendar changes, it's time to pay the rent, it's time to spend some of that paycheck that remains and it's time to look back at the month that was. In Liga MX, we're now four weeks into the season. Unlike last weekend, there aren't big marquee matchups that draw the eye (though our game of the week should get a bit of buzz with Chivas' friendly with Boca now behind it). Yet, those games let us down last weekend, while the best action came from unexpected places. This month, let's make sure our eyes are open to those bits of magic that bring a smile to our faces, even - or especially - when we're not expecting anything out of the ordinary.
Here's what everyone is talking about as we go into the fifth round of the Liga MX Clausura:
IT'S A BIG WEEKEND FOR ... RUBENS SAMBUEZA
The last time Rubens Sambueza was at the Estadio Universitario, Tigres' home venue nicknamed El Volcan, he was in a Club America shirt and was sent off in the second leg of the Liga MX title match. His return was delayed by an ugly break-up between America and the playmaker (America lost 4-2 in a title rematch two weekends ago), but now he's back at the Volcan with new side Toluca.
The Red Devils were off and running early in the year, winning their first two games. That pace has slowed, and it's been down to a lack of ideas going forward. That's what Sambueza was supposed to solve, yet so far his contributions have been difficult to perceive if they've been there at all. Toluca manager Hernan Cristante needs more from his fellow Argentine.
The teams meet in a game between two teams that have been disappointed recently, as Tigres attempts to bounce back from a 1-0 loss at Chiapas last weekend.
The match also could see Tigres hand debuts to South American newcomers Eduardo Vargas and Luis Advincula. Chile star Vargas boosts Tigres attack after the departure of French forward Andy Delort, while Advincula could fill a hole at right back that the club has been looking to fill since Israel Jimenez was injured last campaign.
DON'T MISS ... CHIVAS vs. SANTOS LAGUNA
Chivas played Wednesday, in a Copa MX victory over Venados, Thursday in a friendly against Boca Juniors and now enter Sunday's league match against undefeated Santos Laguna.
The league match arguably is the most important contest, but good luck to the Chivas players hoping to be fresh Sunday evening (just before the Super Bowl begins in Houston). Ex-Chivas manager Chepo de la Torre returns to the Estadio Chivas looking to keep his team undefeated after a quiet but successful start to the Clausura spurred center back Nestor Araujo, whose return from injury is making a difference on both ends of the pitch. Araujo sits in a logjam for third in the goalscoring charts with two on the season, though teammate Jonathan Rodriguez also has a pair of goals.
Nothing is ever quiet at Chivas, the team in the league that probably gets the most media attention. Their start has been good as well, though last week's 1-0 win over Queretaro was more arduous than anticipated and a home loss to Tijuana blemishes the record. The attacking play Chivas gets with Javier "La Chofis" Lopez and Angel Zaldivar out wide and Rodolfo Pizarro setting up Alan Pulido up top could be the biggest test Los Guerreros have faced this season.
It should be a quality contest, and it undoubtedly will be better than anything you can watch in advance of the Super Bowl - Puppy Bowl excluded.
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR ... A CONTINUING CURSE?
Tijuana has traveled to face Leon six times since the Guanajuato side was promoted a year after Xolos. All six times Tijuana has lost. Even when you include their contests in the second division, Camp Nou has been a house of horrors for Tijuana, with the team losing there all but twice in 13 games.
This year seems to be the one when Tijuana could turn things around. Miguel Herrera's five-man back line loves having the ball at its feet and should be able to keep its cool when Javier Torrente's men step up the pressure in Tijuana's half, and that same defense will be tough to break down for a Leon team that has scored in two of its four matches so far this season. Even more hopeful for Tijuana is a road win against Chivas, a sign that the team may be able to overcome its traditional poor road form this campaign.
Leon may make some modifications up front, and its defense against Monterrey last week in a scoreless draw may make it tough for a Tijuana side that has scored more goals than any team in the league right now with 11, but has that total inflated by a six-goal explosion against Puebla in Round 2.
Leon sent a classy message to Tijuana on social media wishing Xolos center back Yasser Corona well after his neck injury in a Copa MX match required surgery, but it will look to be anything but welcoming on a field that has treated Tijuana very poorly.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"I don't know if it's for lack of commitment, not of commitment but perhaps conviction. We've lost confidence, and it's affected us significantly. But there have been golazos that have gone in where we couldn't have done anything, nor could the goalkeeper." - Bruno Valdez, Club America defender
Club America is coming off its first win of the Liga MX season, but a 3-2 Copa MX defeat to second-division Coras de Tepic has Las Aguilas again feeling a bit low. Just a month ago this was a team coming off a quality showing at the Club World Cup and falling just short of winning the league title. Now, it's a team going to relegation-threatened Morelia feeling that it needs three points to keep up. It's the start of a big swing for America, which also faces newly resurgent Jaguares next week in a contest reschedule from the opening round.
Six points would vault the Mexico City giants back into the upper echelon with plenty of time left, but dropping points against either of these teams, the kind of teams America is supposed to beat without difficulty, could lead to even more searching than Valdez and his teammates already are going through.