In a little less than three weeks after Leon beat Club America in convincing fashion to claim the Liga MX Apertura 2013 title, the Clausura 2014 season will get underway on Friday night as Monarcas Morelia take on Queretaro to officially lift the curtain on the season. While Leon and America will only have about 7-10 days of “preseason” work before the start of the Clausura, other teams will have had close to two months to get ready which makes handicapping what could or might happen in the season ahead all the more fascinating.
What we do know is that we have three clear-cut teams that he can say will be favorites to win the Clausura. Leon obviously will be the team most will consider as the favorite given they are the reigning champions and have boosted their squad even with a limited timetable. One thing that will test how well they perform in Liga MX action will be their participation in the Copa Libertadores. Having stated that winning that competition is a priority, it will be interesting to see if they have a letdown in league play.
In addition to Leon, America — because of their squad and recent league success — will also be a favorite to win the Clausura title. Unlike the past two years when it was coached by Miguel Herrera, America will now be coached by Antonio Mohamed — a man who had success with Xolos de Tijuana as he won the Clausura 2012 title. How he handles the pressure of coaching a big team and how well he gets his new team to play more along his philosophy is a very big unknown that will play out throughout the season. Another team on the short list of favorites is Tgres UANL coached by Ricardo ‘Tuca’ Ferreti.
While Tigres largely underachieved during the Apertura 2013 season, their play against America in the playoffs last season suggests that if Tuca is willing to let his team play more attacking football this team could be a force, especially with the emergence of forward Alan Pulido and the signing of Hernan Dario Burbano. While those three are in the category of favorites, there is also a category of teams that, because they are considered giants of Mexican futbol that disappointed last season, will have a lot to answer.
We have Chivas de Guadalajara who after an embarrassing Apertura 2013 needed to show its fans that it was taking the distinct threat of relegation zone battle seriously. Well, going by their signings and the fact that there is now a new President at the club, Chivas fans go into the Clausura with no hope of things getting better for ‘El Rebano Sagrado’. Like Chivas, Pumas UNAM also had a very disappointing Apertura but were more aggressive in their player signings and their fans will be hoping for a quick start so as not to find themselves with relegation zone looming behind them.
Even though they made the playoffs, Cruz Azul — like Chivas and Pumas — disappointed last season, and as a result club management made several changes. The first was bringing in Luis Fernando Tena to coach the team and be the one who will end the 16-year league title drought. Ironically enough, he was the coach of the last Cruz Azul team win a league title. In addition to Tena, the team brought in the mercurial Marco Fabian on loan as he will be hoping to turn around his career and help end the title drought.
As for the rest, well they fall in a category I like to term ‘it depends.’ Depending on how things go, they can have a good season or a bad season which sees club management make a panic coaching change. Add to it that the World Cup is on the horizon, and it will make for an interesting Clausura campaign filled with drama on and off the field of play.