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Tom Marshall: Liga MX team-by-team preview

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Tom Marshall: Liga MX team-by-team preview
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Tom Marshall: Liga MX team-by-team preview

This Friday, the Apertura 2013 kicks off with Queretaro hosting Morelia. What follows is a brief guide to the offseason ongoings of each of the 18 teams in Mexico’s top division.

America

The big question mark hanging over the champion is how much the loss of lethal goalscorer Christian Benitez will hurt the side. Narciso Mina, Raul Jimenez and Luis Gabriel Rey will seek to replace those missing goals, as well as new signing Adrian Aldrete from Colombia’s Deportes Tolima. At the other end of the field, the loss of the calming presence of Diego Reyes will mean it is an uphill task for Las Aguilas to retain the title this season.

Prediction: Playoff places

Atlante

The relegation-threatened, Cancun-based side has invested in experienced duo Martin Galmarini from Tigre and Walter Erviti from Boca Juniors to combine with striker Joaquin Larrivey. It looks good on paper, even with the loss of Esteban Paredes. The problem in recent seasons has been at the back and again Atlante looks shaky in that department. New coach Wilson Graniolatti hasn’t had the best of times over the last few years.

Prediction: Bottom third

Atlas

Off-the-field problems have grown to a level that is sure to affect the players at some point, and a repeat of last season’s third place regular season finish is highly unlikely. Players are still owed wages from last season and the club has admitted its very existence is at peril. However, the strong spine of Miguel Pinto, Leandro Cufre, Facundo Erpen, Rodrigo Millar and Matias Vuoso should make Los Zorros again difficult to defeat. On the down side, new coach Omar Asad is untried in the weird and wonderful world of Mexican soccer, and the loss of speedy winger Isaac Brizuela could be significant.

Prediction: Bottom third of the league

Chiapas FC

It’s difficult to imagine a hastily-assembled Chiapas side, built from the ruins of the old San Luis and Jaguares, doing much this season.

Lucas Viatri from Boca Juniors is the star signing, but the rest of the squad is a mishmash of players led by coach Sergio Bueno, who always seems to be in the relegation fight. That would seem to again be his fate heading into the season, with expectations decidedly low.

Prediction: Last place

Cruz Azul

La Maquina had its heart ripped from them in that final last season against America, and Guillermo Vazquez will be hoping to use it to fire the squad to revenge in the Apertura.

The loss of Teofilo Gutierrez – who may go to River Plate – would be significant, but bringing in Joao Rojas from Morelia was shrewd and none of the other players let go commanded a starting place. Once again Cruz Azul can boast one of the best squads in Mexico, but whether it can break through the psychological barrier that has haunted the Mexico City side in recent years and lift the league trophy is an entirely different matter.

Prediction: Top four

Guadalajara

The signing of Aldo de Nigris coupled with the fine form of Marco Fabian at the Gold Cup has seen a breath of fresh air sweep across Chivas. Plagued with injuries and bad luck last season, Benjamin Galindo’s men are set to produce a much improved performance from their 17th place finish last time out. That 12th title does look beyond them, however, for the simple reason that there are better teams out there.

Prediction: Playoff places

Leon

An improved offense should lift Los Panzas Verdes to a higher finish than the dismal 16th they ended up with last season, with Mauro Boselli potentially one of the best signings in the offseason in Mexico. Franco Arizala will also bring some pace and strength, and Elias Hernandez can revive his career after a fruitless spell at Tigres.

Gustavo Matosas’ side should be one of the best to watch in the league with Luis Montes and Carlos Pena in midfield and a front four of Eisner Loboa, Boselli, Arizala and Dario Burbano.

Prediction: Playoff places

Monterrey

A very good summer for Los Rayados in the transfer market, with Aldo de Nigris’ hole filled by highly-touted Colombian striker Dorlan Pabon, keeps Monterrey in contention. Lucas Silva arrives from Toluca to replace Walter Ayovi, and Efrain Juarez is an intriguing prospect considering his undoubted talent. The Jesus Corona saga rumbles on.

Prediction: Top four

Morelia

Joao Rojas is a major loss and, with European clubs sniffing around Jefferson Montero, it is difficult to predict how Morelia will fare. The signings of Edgar Andrade, Santiago Trellez and Jose Govea have been shrewd, but it is hard to envisage Morelia making the jump from challengers to a real threat.

Prediction: Mid-table

Pachuca

Los Tuzos really splashed out to bring in Duvier Riascos from Club Tijuana and, along with Efrain Cortes, Guti Estrada, Oscar Perez and Walter Ayovi, the loss of Hector Herrera should be covered. Last season Pachuca faded badly at the end and a good start from Gabriel Caballero’s players will be important, with the pressure for the club to succeed growing.

Prediction: Mid-table

Puebla

It’s strange for players to see the same coach return to La Franja from one season to the next, but Manuel Lapuente still has it all to do to get the team into the playoffs. The signings of Leandro Augusto and Alfredo Moreno bode well and alongside DaMarcus Beasley, Matias Alustiza and Leandro Augusto the team has a better chance than in recent seasons.

Prediction: Bottom third

Pumas

A poor preseason means the pressure is already on at UNAM. New Argentine signing Ariel Nahuelpan is charged with bringing the goals that the team lacked last time out. Antonio Torres Servin has a season of experience behind him on the bench and reached the playoffs last time out, although Pumas still look a couple of players short of making a serious challenge for the title.

Prediction: Mid-table

Queretaro

Esteban Paredes should be a big boost for Queretaro – which takes the old Jaguares’ spot for the Apertura 2013. Luis Perez in midfield should also help, although, once again, there is an element of the unknown with Ignacio Ambriz having to blend a lot of new faces together. Defense could be a weakness.

Prediction: Mid-table

Santos Laguna

The losses of Herculez Gomez and Aaron Galindo should be compensated by the arrival of Javier Orozco and Nestor Araujo. Last season’s semifinalist should once again be there or there abouts. Los Guerreros have one of the best squads in the league, with quality oozing through each one of its lines.

Prediction: Top four

Tigres

There shouldn’t be too much difference from last season’s first-place finishers in the regular season, with the added boost of Argentine midfielder Guido Pizarro. Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti’s team boasts an attack of Danilinho, Damian Alvarez, Lucas Lobos and Emanuel Villa, which is possibly the best in the league. Aligned to that defensive solidity, Tigres is again one of the favorites for the title.

Prediction: First place

Tijuana

The loss of Duvier Riascos is big for Los Xolos for the pace, unorthodoxy and eccentricity he brought to the team in the last third. Antonio Mohamed also leaves the dugout for Jorge Almiron, which could leave a huge hole at the club. U.S. international Herculez Gomez has enough quality to replace Alfredo Moreno quite comfortably, but whether new signing Dario Benedetto can replace Riascos may be asking too much.

Prediction: Playoffs

Toluca

Paraguayan Jose Cardozo returns as coach to the club where he made his name as a player and there are reasons for Toluca fans to be hopeful. Aaron Galindo adds some steel at the back, and Paraguayans Paulo da Silva, Pablo Velazquez, Edgar Benitez and Richard Ortiz should help the new coach settle.

Just how far they can go is hard to predict, but Cardozo might well need this season to get the team playing as he would like.

Prediction: Mid-table

Veracruz

The Tiburones Rojos took the place of La Piedad in the first division and spent big to land Mexico international Angel Reyna as their star signing. Panamanian international Luis Tejada could be the key if he can find his goalscoring boots, but Juan Antonio Luna’s side has a lot of work to do if it is to make an immediate impact in the Liga MX.

Prediction: Bottom third

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