23 Jul Liga MX season preview – As coronavirus worries loom giant, can Cruz Azul lastly break title drought?
A little bit over 4 months for the reason that Liga MX’s 2020 Clausura was postponed and later canceled as a result of coronavirus pandemic, the “2020 Guard1anes” season — named in homage to healthcare staff — was supposed to begin up on Thursday between Atletico San Luis and FC Juarez behind closed doorways.
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Nevertheless, the league postponed that opening match late Wednesday due to a spate of optimistic coronavirus checks. Now the primary match of the season will happen on Friday night time between Necaxa and Tigres. As well as, Mazatlan FC’s league debut towards Puebla will now happen on Monday.
Other than the delay, what else has modified for the reason that final time we noticed Liga MX in motion?
Got all that? So here is what to expect from Mexico’s top-flight division when the ball gets rolling again.
Jump to: Will coronavirus disrupt season? | New format to water down playoffs? | Can Cruz Azul stay on track?| High hopes for new club Mazatlan?| Which clubs are contenders? | What to make of Chivas, America? | Who are the players to watch?
Will coronavirus cases continually disrupt the season?
As mentioned above, it already has. The season opener scheduled for Thursday between San Luis and Juarez is scheduled now for Monday (pending further test results at Juarez). And there have been a slew of positive results around the league causing nervousness about the coming weeks and months.
Liga MX released a 31-page document on its protocol to return amid the pandemic. It’s elaborate and detailed, but it hasn’t dissipated concerns.
Seven of the FC Juarez party scheduled to travel to San Luis tested positive; Necaxa announced on Monday it has five positive cases in camp (one player and four members of staff); Atlas have had five cases, with manager Rafa Puente admitting his team for the opener against Tijuana will be different than he’d hoped; Chivas a total of four; three at Monterrey and one at Tigres. And those are just over recent days.
There have been positive cases at Mazatlan, Cruz Azul, Toluca and Santos Laguna, as well as seven refereeing officials, in recent weeks and months.
The protocol is designed to protect the players as much as possible and anyone showing a positive test must isolate for 14 days. They will only be cleared to play again once a negative result comes back.
But the worry is that there is no bubble in Liga MX: the players will be traveling up and down the country in coming weeks and the situation with the virus in Mexico isn’t particularly reassuring, with 6,859 confirmed cases and 915 reported deaths announced on Tuesday alone.
How will changes to the playoffs and pro/rel affect things?
The new playoff system will see the top four sides advance to the quarterfinals, while the No. 5 through No. 12 teams are seeded in a single elimination round. The new format will keep more clubs (and fans) interested through the later stages of the regular season, too: there will be battles to get into the top four and avoid the play-in round, to make sure a club is in fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth — securing a home game in the one-match playoff — and then a scramble to make the top 12.
An era of austerity has gripped the Mexican game since the coronavirus hit and this new system is designed to generate as much interest (and therefore income, especially from TV) as possible. The downside? That even mediocre teams, winning perhaps five of 17 regular season games, have a shot of making the postseason. The change certainly fuels the idea in Mexico that almost any team can win the title, and again deviates Liga MX away from the model that has seen a small group of elite clubs dominate the top European leagues.
And as for the pro/rel suspension: it wasn’t working anyway, with Chiapas the last team to get relegated back in 2017. The fear is that there is no incentive for clubs to spend to avoid relegation, although the counter-argument is that clubs may be more willing to plan longer-term knowing there is no threat of them losing their Liga MX status, even if the bottom three finishers in the relegation table will pay a fine.
Can Cruz Azul, Leon stay hot following the stoppage?
There’s no reason why not. Cruz Azul lifted the Copa por Mexico after defeating Chivas in the final and, while it was clearly a preseason tournament, La Maquina looked good. The signing of Ignacio Rivero from Xolos adds depth in midfield and potential on the right flank.
Cruz Azul boasts a mature squad and coach Robert Siboldi has options, although the sooner center-back Pablo Aguilar can come back from injury, the better. Finally, Uruguayan playmaker Jonathan Rodriguez is a player that European clubs are monitoring for a potential winter transfer. It may finally be the season that the Mexico City club snap their two-decade long title drought and retire the infamous word that’s associated with it.
As for Leon, the CONCACAF Champions League loss to LAFC was a huge blow ahead of the break, but the club sowed up a new deal for Costa Rica international Joel Campbell and replaced the losses of Ismael Sosa and Leo Ramos (who hasn’t yet officially left) with Emmanuel Gigliotti. Leon and its attacking style under Ignacio “Nacho” Ambriz is set to entertain once again.
What can we expect from new club Mazatlan?
If the preseason is anything to go by, Mazatlan will cause a big fuss off the field with its bold messaging — it is undoubtedly making an attempt to be an upstart — however will wrestle on it.
Pablo Puede impressed in Morelia’s closing two seasons, however has set sail for a promising challenge at Xolos, whereas new Mazatlan supervisor Paco Palencia will seemingly want time to get the team enjoying how he desires. Definitely, the preseason highlighted Mazatlan’s struggles in entrance of purpose and in enjoying out from the again.
It’s a disgrace that the franchise can be beginning life in Liga MX with out individuals in its brand-new stadium. The Sinaloa area’s vacationer vacation spot on the Pacific Coast will definitely convey a recent taste to Mexico’s first division.
Which golf equipment can be within the title combine?
My prime eight contenders (so as) are: Tigres, Monterrey, Membership America, Cruz Azul, Leon, Chivas, Santos Laguna and Tijuana.
The addition of playmaker Leo Fernandez at Tigres bodes very well, whereas rival Monterrey welcomes again Aviles Hurtado from harm and has signed Chile worldwide Sebastian Vegas to exchange Leonel Vangioni, in addition to Hugo Gonzalez in purpose.
Monterrey might have completed final within the deserted Clausura, however they’re nonetheless the defending champions and arguably have the very best squad within the league. Santos have appeared good underneath Guillermo Almada, though the long-term harm to their greatest attacking participant Brian Lozano is a big blow.
Of the potential underdogs, Tijuana has added the gifted Pablo Guede as coach and bolstered its squad with younger Mexican Marcel Ruiz and goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco, whereas Atletico San Luis has additionally been one of many busier golf equipment within the transfer market with Pablo Barrera and Mauro Quiroga including confirmed expertise to their ahead line.
It will be a shock if Puebla, Queretaro or Mazatlan made the highest 12, whereas Toluca and Atlas may wrestle. Necaxa has made a behavior of coming into seasons with low expectations solely to battle for the playoffs and as soon as once more the success of the “purchase low, promote excessive” transfer technique will make for fascinating viewing.
Are Chivas and America are set to problem?
Mexico’s two hottest golf equipment all the time enter every season with excessive expectations so as to add to their spectacular trophy case (Membership America have 13 league titles, another than Chivas).
Luis Fernando Tena hasn’t completely received over everybody as far as Chivas coach, however the membership has a deep squad and could possibly be combating for a prime 4 end. Watching the event of kids Gilberto Sepulveda, Fernando Beltran and Jose Juan Macias can be fascinating this season, though shedding Macias to a European membership on this window could be a major blow.
As for America, Miguel Herrera has to search out solutions in central midfield and to recuperate from the lack of winger Renato Ibarra (on mortgage to Atlas). That stated, Herrera has confirmed greater than able to adapting in latest seasons and Las Aguilas stay sturdy. If Herrera can get estranged Colombian Roger Martinez clicking, the team’s probabilities of success naturally improve.
Thrilling gamers to look out for?
Leo Fernandez at Tigres appeared final season like he may play on the very prime whereas on mortgage at Toluca, whereas these might be the final video games in Liga MX for Macias and America’s Francisco Cordova earlier than they transfer to Europe. It is also fairly an enormous season for Monterrey’s Carlos Rodriguez. The 23-year-old has received the potential to be working Mexico’s midfield on the subsequent two World Cups, however must hold creating and attracting consideration from throughout the pond.
And for those who did not already, take time this season to understand 34-year-old Luis “Chapito” Montes. The Leon central midfielder’s profession could also be slowly beginning to wind down, however there are few gamers in North America that ooze class and exert as a lot affect over a team as Montes.
USMNT followers will need to examine in on Sebastian Saucedo, who confirmed good kind at Pumas final season and appears set to be a daily.