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Mexican Primera, 2011 Clausura Preview: Monterrey Defends, Tigres Chases, Relegation Battlers Stock Up

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Mexican Primera, 2011 Clausura Preview: The Title Contenders And Final Predictions

If you've been reading this gigantic opus of a preview, you're probably wondering, "When am I going to get to the really good stuff? The meat and potatoes of this preview?" Well, friend, you have arrived. After powering through way too many words on teams who aren't very good, you have reached the promised land. 

This section is about the four teams who have a better than average shot at winning the Mexican Primera's 2011 Clausura tournament. I'm going to plow through them in the order that they finished in the regular season of the 2010 Apertura in order to avoid giving away my picks. Of course, you can just cheat and scroll to the bottom, if you want. This category's newest arrivals go first, since they seriously choked last season and didn't even make Liguilla. 

Tigres de la UANL

2010 Apertura Finish: 9th

Tigres are a very big, very well-supported side. Last season, they had a pretty decent squad and still managed to choke big time, missing out on Liguilla all together. The fans and the board reacted poorly to this and proceeded to spend what most teams in this hemisphere would consider to be a lot of money. Jonathan Bornstein came from Chivas USA on a free, but they spent an estimated $8m on their other three big signings. Add this to a very good defense and some great youth academy players, and you have a title contender.

I've already written about all of the wonderful new tactical options that Tigres has with their new players, but almost more important than tactics is the fact that their new players are all really good. Okay, so some USMNT fans just thought to themselves "Are you implying Jonathan Bornstein is good?" Well, I'm implying that he's talented and that he's pretty good when played in the right system. Their other new arrivals, Danilinho, Carlos Ochoa, and Hector Mancilla are also really good players and are going to provide a lot of spark to their attack. They join established stars Lucas Lobos and Damien Alvarez, as well as budding young stars Francisco Acuña and Manuel Viniegra. 

So, there are the positives. The negatives are that the teams around them are all still really, really good. Cruz Azul, Santos Laguna, and Monterrey are all at least as good as they were last season, or at least they should be. It's going to be a tall order for Tigres to mount a significant challenge to them. In the Liguilla, though, anything can happen.

Santos Laguna

2010 Apertura Finish: 3rd

Santos may have finished 3rd in the regular season and runners up in Liguilla, but it would be tough to argue against them being the most entertaining side in Mexico at their absolute best. This is partially because they have some seriously entertaining attacking players, but also because their talent in defense allows them to push a lot of bodies forward in attack.

Between veteran goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez, central defenders Felipe Baloy and Jonathan Lacerda, and defensive midfielder Juan Rodriguez, Santos have a rock solid defensive corps. They allowed 19 goals last season, but don't be fooled into thinking that means that the likes of San Luis, Jaguares, and Morelia are on a similar level when it comes to defensive talent. First of all, Santos had a couple of really odd stinkers that skewed the numbers a bit. Second, because Santos has those four dudes holding it down, they can really go for it. Their 19 goals allowed has more to do with stylistic choices than ability. There isn't a whole lot that gets by Rodriguez in the midfield, and if a counter does get by him and the rest of the midfield easily, Lacerda and Baloy are often left out on an island by themselves, trying to stop three on twos or four on twos. The fact that Santos allowed 19 goals last tournament tells you how good these guys really are.

Their attacking corps of Cristian Benitez, Carlos Darwin Quintero, Fernando Arce, and Daniel Ludueña is as flashy and entertaining as they come. They're accented by a host of solid role players and up and coming young talents, as well as their fullbacks bombing forward. Benitez was the top scorer in the last tournament, but he probably couldn't have done it without the system and teammates that he has. Ludueña is a serious creative force at his best, Arce had a spectacular tournament last year, even by his high standards, and 23 year old Darwin Quintero seems to steadily improve every season.

Monterrey

2010 Apertura Finish: 2nd (Champions, won Liguilla)

The chaaaaaaaaaampiooooooooooooons! I don't care if that's from the UEFA Champions League song, that should be played whenever anyone wins anything. It's an epic song. It should just play while Victor Manuel Vucetich walks around. It's the kind of song that says "I'm the realest dude."

In addition to winning the 2010 Apertura, Monterrey finished first in the 2010 Bicentenario before getting upset in Liguilla, and won the 2009 Apertura. This squad has been one of the two or three best, if not the best for three consecutive tournaments now. They even got the No. 1 seed in Liguilla while Humberto Suazo was on loan at Real Zaragoza in La Liga. They're a cohesive unit loaded with talent, and they probably have the best manager in the country in Vucetich.

While Cristian Benitez won the scoring title last tournament, it seems like there's a general consensus 'round these parts that Humberto Suazo is the best player in North America. He's accented by a variety of talented strikers, highlighted by Aldo de Nigris. Osvaldo Martinez, Luis Perez, and Neri Cardozo do a great job providing service while Jesus Zavala bangs some heads in the middle and a great defense holds things down at the back. Walter Ayovi can play as a fullback or in the midfield, and he's been a key component of their team as well. They're balanced, talented, deep, and cohesive. Monterrey is no more or less a title contender than they have been in the previous three tournaments. It would be pretty stunning to see them do anything but finish in the top four and challenge for the title. They're just too good to go anywhere.

Cruz Azul

2010 Apertura Finish: 1st

Close but no cigar yet again for the Buffalo Bills of the Mexican Primera. This time they were upset by Pumas in the first round of Liguilla and spared the pain of losing yet another final, but the disappointment was almost as severe as the losses in the last tie of Liguilla. Cruz Azul were the best team in the last tournament by almost any measure. They finished on top, scored the most goals, allowed the least goals, and defeated all of their closest rivals, Monterrey, Santos, and Club America. 

Despite only allowing 13 goals, most people believed that the center of defense was the weakest part of Cruz Azul's team last season. They responded by shipping out Joel Huiqui and bringing in Chilean international Waldo Ponce, representing an upgrade in the minds of most. They've also added forward Isaac Romo, midfielder Marcelo Palau, and winger Hugo Droguett. The last of those players, Droguett, is the only player that seems likely to get significant minutes this season, but the point is, Cruz Azul are deeper than they were last year. They also have a few youngsters that could finally be ready to make the jump up in competition this year.

So, how much stock do we take in the fact that they're still Cruz Azul, and Cruz Azul is really good at choking? I think this only matters if it's deep in the heads of the players, and I have know way of knowing whether or not it is. What I do know is that they have one of the four most talented teams in Mexico. Some might argue that it is the most talented. I also know that it's reasonable to expect slightly less production from Chaco Gimenez and slightly more from the two main strikers, Emanuel Villa and Javier Orozco, representing a stagnant amount of goal production. The spine of Jose de Jesus Corona, Horacio Cervantes, Gerardo Torrado, and Gonzalo Pineda are still there. They had one slipped disc, but surgery has been performed and Huiqui is gone. This team is really, really good, despite the choking tendencies.

Predictions (Regular Season)

Tigres: 4th

Monterrey: 3rd

Cruz Azul: 2nd

Santos Laguna: 1st

Predictions (Liguilla)

First Round

America def. Tigres

Monterrery def. Pumas

Cruz Azul def. San Luis

Santos def. Chivas

Semi-Final

Santos def. America

Cruz Azul def. Monterrey

Final

Santos def. Cruz Azul

Your Mexican Primera 2011 Clausura Champions: Santos Laguna

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Mexican Primera, 2011 Clausura Preview: The Liguilla Contenders, Part Two

Yesterday, we took a look at four of the teams that should contend for a Liguilla place, but probably not for the title. There are five more teams that I think belong in that category, and they will get addressed today. Let's just dive right into it.

Pumas de la UNAM

2010 Apertura Finish: 8th

On a scale of one to ten, their fans will be this furious if they miss Liguilla: 8

Pumas, like Chivas, have not brought in any reinforcements for the 2011 Clausura and have instead decided to stick with what they have and hope some youth products can step up. It's not an awful strategy, since Pumas definitely underachieved for most of the last tournament, despite sneaking into Liguilla (and upsetting Cruz Azul once they got there). Their usually stout defense allowed 24 goals, which is 14 more than the same unit allowed in the previous season. A defense that solid seems unlikely, but they should certainly allow less than 24 goals this time around.

It looked like they were going to lose holding midfielder Leandro Augusto to their rivals Tigres this offseason, but it now appears that Tigres were scared off by their asking price and that Augusto will play for Pumas once again in the Clausura. If this sounds like I'm not being firm, that's because I'm not. I've actually seen lots of conflicting information on this, but if we haven't heard anything concrete on a transfer on the Thursday before the first game of the season, it seems reasonable to assume that Augusto will stay put.

Unfortunately, it seems like the glory days are over for 37 year old forward Francisco "Paco" Palencia, but the trio of Dante Lopez, Juan Cacho, and Martin Bravo played well for most of last year. Pumas will need all three of those guys to have good seasons to get back into Liguilla this tournament.

Toluca

2010 Apertura Finish: 11th

On a scale of one to ten, their fans will be this furious if they miss Liguilla: 7

Toluca's manager that lead them to a championship in the 2010 Bicentenario, Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre, as well as their leading scorer, Hector Mancilla, have departed the team. Chepo is now the Mexican national team's manager, while Mancilla was purchased by the offseason's big spenders, Tigres. Additionally, their captain, Zinha, is now 35 years old. Tigres are a team in transition, to say the least.

Still, they have signed a couple of strikers in an attempt to replace Mancilla, and they might do well. Their new 22 year old striker, Jaime Ayovi, has featured for the Ecuadorian national team already and he had a very good scoring record at Emelec. Colombian attacking midfielder Luis Carlos Arias is less of a known quantity, but there are strong indications that he can help them this season.

I'm trying to be positive with those signings, but it's hard to believe that Toluca are not a team in decline. They're a decent side that aren't that far removed from a championship, but they're hardly one of the top eight teams in Mexico right now. Down that Geritol, Zinha. The Red Devils need you.

Pachuca

2010 Apertura finish: 7th

On a scale of one to ten, their fans will be this furious if they miss Liguilla: 7.5

Pachuca are a decent team that should compete for Liguilla, but there's no getting around it: They're a worse team than they were last tournament. It's essentially the same time, minus Damian Manso and Dario Cvitanich, plus Yulian Anchico. While the Colombian international midfielder might be able to contribute right away, it seems unlikely that he'll match Manso's contribution right away.

No one has been brought in to replace Cvitanich, whose contribution will need to be replaced from within. The good news is that both Herculez Gomez and Franco Arizala had pretty disappointing seasons where their contributions were below their capabilities. It seems reasonable to expect more goals out of both of those players this season. Arizala was an expensive signing for Pachuca who disappointed for most of the last tournament, but hopefully his performance in Liguilla against Monterrey was a sign of things to come.

The biggest question surrounding Pachuca, despite how big the departures of Cvitanich and Manso are, is their defense. They conceded an incredible 28 goals last season and haven't done anything to address the problem. Unlike Pumas, they don't have an established unit who have proven themselves to be an iron curtain in the past, so Pablo Marini and the board are basically just praying something different happens. 

San Luis

2010 Apertura Finish: 5th

On a scale of one to ten, their fans will be this furious if they miss Liguilla: 6

San Luis are a decent side, but it's fair to say that they overachieved a bit in the 2010 Apertura, especially after their dismal Bicentenario campaign. The good news, however, is that they didn't attain success purely because someone like Miguel Sabah or Johan Fano went on a ridiculous scoring run. Their top scorer, Michael Arroyo, scored five goals. He's 23 years old and it was his first year with the team, so it's not unreasonable to expect similar or better production out of him.

After Arroyo, scoring was a team effort for San Luis. Six other players scored more than one goal for them. Their defense was a solid team effort as well, as they allowed 19 goals, a solid defensive record. This is all well and good, but this is really a team devoid of stars. It's possible that's a good thing, but it's also possible that San Luis is playing well above their talent level.

Young forward Juan Cuevas might help them out, but his scoring record is nothing to write home about. Juan Cavallo isn't that well known of a player, but his scoring record is impressive enough and he might be able to add to the team as well. New signing Carlos Hurtado isn't expected to contribute much, and Juan de la Barrera will not be able to play after getting injured in a car accident. It was a pretty quiet transfer window for San Luis with some budget signings.

San Luis can make Liguilla again, but finishing 5th again seems highly unlikely. Having to play in Copa Libertadores could slow them down quite a bit as well. 

Club America

2010 Apertura Finish: 4th

On a scale of one to ten, their fans will be this furious if they miss Liguilla: 11

America have made no major signings in the offseason, but unlike Chivas and Toluca, they didn't really need to. They did well to finish in fourth and best San Luis, among other teams, despite not playing their best football at times. They're counting on continuity and improvement from their young players to drive them forward in this tournament, and based on what they did in the Apertura, that seems perfectly reasonable.

The one new player America did sign is Nicolas Olivera, a Uruguayan attacking midfielder who played previously for Puebla. Supposedly, he's not a popular signing among the fans, but he should add some good depth to the America side. 

Club America was good in the last tournament, and they should remain good this tournament. Vicente Vuoso, Daniel Montenegro, Daniel Palacios, and Vicente Sanchez should all be at least as good as they were last tournament. There's no reason to believe they won't continue to play well and keep America in a Liguilla position.

Predictions

Disclaimer: Once again, I have not gone through match by match. I apologize if I come up with a point total for all 18 teams that is impossible, but it should be pretty close to something that works out mathematically. Also, I have four teams in the "title contenders" section of this preview and I'm predicting that all of them make Liguilla.

Puebla: 20 points

Chivas: 24 points

Jaguares: 22 points

Morelia: 19 points

Pumas: 25 points

Toluca: 21 points

San Luis: 24 points

Pachuca: 24 points

America: 28 points

Liguilla

Out: Morelia, Puebla, Toluca, Jaguares, Pachuca (on goal differential)

8th place: Chivas

7th place: San Luis

6th place: Pumas

5th place (and Group Two winners): America

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Mexican Primera, 2011 Clausura Preview: The Liguilla Contenders, Part One

Remember when I said that this preview would be three parts? I lied! See, we have a little rule here at SBNation about word count on our articles, and I broke that rule with the relegation battlers part of this preview. There are more teams that are contenders for Liguilla, but not legitimate contenders for a championship than there are relegation battlers and title contenders, so if this weren't split into two posts, I'd have the bosses jumping down my throat. As a result, we'll be splitting it up.

In this section, you'll be hearing about Puebla, Chivas, Jaguares, and Morelia. In part two, we'll look at Pumas, Toluca, Pachuca, San Luis, and America. Let's start with Puebla.

Puebla

Apertura 2010 Finish: 13th

On a scale of one to ten, their fans will be this furious if they miss Liguilla: 3.5

Puebla put together a respectable run last tournament, but it was obvious that they missed their leading goal scorer from the 2010 Clausura, Herculez Gomez. Gabriel Pereyra provided a nice spark, scoring eight goals from his attacking midfield position, but his strikers did not provide the goal scoring touch that was required to get Puebla into Liguilla contention.

They're probably the least likely of all of these teams to finish in the top eight, but they are much more likely to do that then finish near the bottom, and their current coefficient should keep them out of relegation contention. They had a ton of turnover in the offseason, and their additions should bring improvement.

Ecuadorian international forward Felix Borja is the biggest addition. He's played most recently for Mainz in Germany and has also played for Greek giants Olympiakos. He'll add some firepower to a strike force that was poor in the last tournament. Paraguayan international winger Nelson Cuevas, Argentinian midfielder Walter Jimenez, and American wing back Edgar Castillo round out the major additions for Puebla. Guillermo Cerda, Aaron Padilla, Alejandro Arguello, and Flavio Rogerio should also add depth to a completely re-tooled team.

Puebla don't have a stellar squad, but it's good enough to keep them in the conversation for a while. They're benefited by playing in arguably the weakest group in the league, Group Three, and they might not even have to be that spectacular to nick second place.

C.D. Guadalajara -or- Chivas de Guadalajara to most of you!

Apertura 2010 Finish: 10th

On a scale of one to ten, their fans will be this furious if they miss Liguilla: IT'S OVER NINE THOUSAAAAND!

Of course, 9,000 isn't just a reference to a famous Dragon Ball Z clip, but also a general estimation of the number of people who show up at your average Chivas match. They built a brand new stadium out in the sticks and jacked up ticket prices. Apparently, public transportation to the stadium is terrible and it's a total traffic hell, so no one goes to games. It's pretty funny to see such a big club play in front of a gigantic empty stadium and score precisely never.

As most of the people reading this will know, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez was sold to Manchester United this summer. In the last tournament, Chivas had absolutely no one to replace his goals, could not finish worth a lick, and just played generally crappy football. The good news is, they signed a big name foreign striker to come in and pick the team back up. Just kidding!

If you didn't know, Chivas does not sign players who are not Mexican. It doesn't really matter, since they didn't sign any Mexicans this offseason. They're the same team. I think they're just hoping that Bofo Bautista and Omar Arellano, who sucked last tournament, will roll out of bed this weekend and remember that they're actually really good at football. And even if they don't, the goalkeeper and central defense unit of Luis Ernesto Michel, Hector Reynoso, and Jonny Magallon will keep other teams from scoring. Chivas might only have to score 22ish goals to make Liguilla, those guys are so good.

Jaguares de Chiapas

2010 Apertura Finish: 6th (and Copa Libertadores bound!)

On a scale of one to ten, their fans will be this furious if they miss Liguilla: 6

This offseason, Jaguares lost striker Carlos Ochoa. Ouch. They also lost their outstanding No. 10, Danilinho. Double ouch. They lost both of these players to the same team, Tigres, who finished outside of Liguilla in the last tournament. Triple ouch.

Jaguares are technically in relegation trouble since they have a worse coefficient than Estudiantes Tecos do, but even with the losses of those players, it would be pretty surprising to see them drop off of a cliff and finish with less than 19 points or so. They actually did a pretty decent job of replacing Danilinho, bringing in Argentinian attacking midfielder Damian Manso from Pachuca. Between him and existing attacking pieces Jorge Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez, Jaguares should be just fine.

Are they true Liguilla contenders, though? It's hard to tell. Those three are a really nasty attacking trio, and their defense is definitely solid. Jaguares had depth last tournament, though, and not addressing the loss of Ochoa could end up being a big deal. When Martinez got hurt, Ochoa and Danilinho picked up the slack. When Martinez came back, Ochoa became the main bench option. When someone gets hurt in this tournament, they will be looking to an unproven youngster to step up.

Monarcas Morelia

2010 Apertura Finish: 12th

On a scale of one to ten, their fans will be this furious if they miss Liguilla: 7

Morelia might be the second worst one trick pony team in the league, behind Atlante and Johan Fano. Basically, Morelia goes as Miguel Sabah goes. Last tournament, he didn't, so neither did they. Their defense held up okay and guided them to a 12th place finish, but for a team that was in the last Copa Libertadores and who has made some decent Liguilla showings, 12th isn't good enough.

La Monarquia lost probably their second best attacking player, Hugo Droguett, to Cruz Azul in the offseason. They've replaced the pacy winger with a similar player, Joao Rojas, who played most recently for Emelec. They've added Joel Huiqui in defense, but I think if you ask most Cruz Azul fans, they would say that losing Huiqui is addition by subtraction. Manuel Perez Flores might be able to help out in midfield, but at 30 years old, he might be on the other side of his best playing days.

They haven't added any strikers, apparently hoping that 30 year old Luis Rey can find his scoring form again and that Miguel Sabah can get back to scoring a bajillion goals a tournament, since his seven goals in the Apertura weren't sufficient.

If you haven't figured it out, I don't really rate any of these teams, but I acknowledge that they all have the possibility to crack the top eight, with Chivas being the most likely out of this group to do it. Part Two of the Liguilla contenders sees us look at the real players. Of course, the realest players, the title contenders, come tomorrow.

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Mexican Primera, 2011 Clausura Preview: The Relegation Battlers

For those of you who are unaware, Mexico has a relegation system based on aggregate points, not based on who was the worst team during the current season. Argentina is the other country whose top division is well known for their points based relegation system. In La Primera, the team who has the worst average points to games ratio over the last six tournaments in the top flight. This means that teams who have just come up from the Liga de Ascenso are not penalized, and are judged only on their time in the top flight. 

Currently, it seems that all of the bottom four teams in the relegation coefficient standings have a good chance at getting relegated. The team in 14th, Jaguares, seem like a pretty safe bet to avoid the drop, despite losing Danilinho and Carlos Ochoa in the offseason. However, I'm going to drag 13th placed Estudiantes Tecos down into the relegation battle, as they were absolutely atrocious in the last tournament. If they match their point total from last tournament, or regress, which seems possible with Necaxa and Atlas improving, their coefficient would sit below 1.2 and they could conceivably be relegated.

Necaxa will be the bottom team to start the tournament, but they have also been the most aggressive in improving their side in the offseason. We'll start with them. Daniel Brailovsky, your boys have the floor.

Necaxa

Current Relegation Coefficient: 0.94

2010 Apertura Finish: 15th

A couple of seasons ago, Necaxa sold their superstar Hugo Rodallega to Wigan Athletic in the English Premier League. The move ended up hurting them considerably, as they were quickly relegated. They came right back up to the first division, but they didn't have a great time last season and find themselves as the bottom team in a relegation dogfight.

It's unfortunate, because Necaxa looked like a decent team who were going to stay up to start the season. They pulled off a lot of 1-1 draws against some very good teams and threw in the occasional win. Something like a 20 point season seemed like it was on the cards. Later in the season, Necaxa faltered as their lack of quality and depth showed. They finished on 16 points, making them the only team with a coefficient under 1. 

They have reacted in a proactive manner, though, signing a ton of new players for the Clausura campaign. The volume of solid players they have added is truly immense for a relegation fighter. Fernando Salazar and Pierre Ibarra should sure up an already respectable defense, Cristian Suarez, Sergio Blanco, and Ulises Medivil will assist an overworked Dario Gandin in attack, and Luis Alonso Sandoval and Jose Antonio Castro will add some much needed quality out wide.

Necaxa have a large hole to dig themselves out of, but their large volume of quality winter signings should help them to some points this season. Will it be enough? Only time will tell.

Queretaro

Current Relegation Coefficient: 1.14

2010 Apertura Finish: 14th

Queretaro's league finish from last season might not instantly get anyone worried about relegation, but their defensive record was absolutely atrocious. Their 28 goals allowed was the second worst in the league, their ineptness at the back only outdone by Tecos. 

They have made strides in that department, signing three players to help bolster their defense. Efrain Cortes is a veteran defender with experience in South American continental competitions and well over 100 matches domestically in Colombia, and all indications are that he will be an upgrade. Juan Antonio Ocampo has arrived from Chivas de Guadalajara, but he never made an impact there and it's unknown whether or not the 21 year old can help Queretaro right away. Their last defensive signing is more of a sure thing, left back Ismael de Jesus Rodriguez. The former Monterrey and Club America fixture should provide an instant upgrade on the left.

However, there is a bigger story here, and he was already mentioned in the Necaxa section. Top scorer Sergio Blanco has not only left Queretaro, but gone to their biggest relegation rivals. The man who has been brought in to replace him is Uruguayan international Carlos Bueno, who has a decent chance at replacing Blanco's output. He's untested in Mexico, but based on his experiences in Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, and Spain, as well as at the international level, he should be able to contribute. Another new siging, Colombian forward Jairo Castillo, could also pick up some of the slack, but at 33 years old his best days are behind him.

Queretaro has also added to their midfield, bringing in a couple of two way players in Gabino Velasco and Raul Ferro. Ferro has been applying his trade in Uruguay, where he won multiple titles with Danubio. He is both the more polished and more attack minded of the two, with Velasco being a young player who is a more defensive minded midfielder.

Like Necaxa, the question is, will it be enough? Queretaro has added, but it's not certain whether the defensive additions will be good enough and if Sergio Blanco's output will be adequately replaced by Carlos Bueno.

Atlas

Current Relegation Coefficient: 1.15

2010 Apertura Finish: 18th

The days when a young Rafael Marquez led Atlas to a league final seem so far away. Mexican national team fixture Andres Guardado wore the shirt as recently as 2007 and the team had a solid 2008 Apertura tournament, but it's been mostly disappointment since then for Atlas. This team, hailing from Guadalajara, has some very vocal support despite their lack of a championship for 60 years and they have made aggressive moves in an attempt to avoid the drop.

Atlas have added an incredible eight new players to their first team, some of them very high profile names for a club of their current stature. The one that jumps off the page at me is Miguel Pinto, a Chilean international goalkeeper who excelled at the 2010 Copa Libertadores for La U, Universidad de Chile. Though Jose Fransisco Canales wears the No. 1 shirt, Pinto should step in instantly and provide a huge boost to the Atlas defense.

Also boosting the defense will be Colombian Wilman Conde, formerly of the Chicago Fire. Conde was mediocre for much of last year in MLS, but that could have been due to his mind being in another place. The previous two seasons, Conde was one of Major League Soccer's top defenders. After Pinto and Conde, the other six signings were all about goals, as they should have been. Atlas only found the back of the net 18 times last season, with seven of those goals coming from Alfredo Moreno. He needed a bit of help.

Attacking midfielders Elias and Lucio Flavio are expected to provide some more creativity, while Carlo Costly and Daniel Arreola add some depth at the striker position. Emanuel Centurion will provide some width on the left hand side, while Lucas Ayala will give them a more balanced midfield option.

All in all, Atlas seem poised to avoid the drop with their signings. Pinto will save plenty of points on his own, and Lucio Flavio might prove to be the one of the most important signings in Mexico this season.

Atlante

Current Relegation Coefficient: 1.16

2010 Apertura Finish: 16th

Though they have a pretty large jump on Necaxa in the coefficients, Atlante seems to be the team out of the bottom four that is losing the arms race. They've made four decent signings, but they don't look nearly as improved as Necaxa or Atlas, and Queretaro should probably be better than them as well. Their solid 2008 Apertura is keeping them alive at this point, they were certainly worse than both Necaxa and Queretaro in the last tournament. Their signings could provide a major boost, but none of them looks like a sure thing.

The biggest name that has come to Atlante this offseason is Francisco "Kikin" Fonseca, who I assumed died sometime around 2007. Once one of the top scorers in Mexico and an emerging star on the national team, Kikin's career fell off of a cliff around the time he joined Benfica in 2006. He did next to nothing with the Portuguese club, was not called up for the 2007 Copa America, and was a disappointment for most of his time with Tigres after returning to Mexico. Atlante have taken a flier on him and it remains to be seen whether or not he can regain anything resembling his old form, now at 31 years old.

Their other signings are hardly flashy. Giancarlo Maldonado and Mario Ortiz might provide top scorer Johan Fano with some help up top, but I wouldn't count on it. Diego Ordaz should help Atlante's defense quite a bit, but I think they need a lot more than him to be competitive.

Could Atlante be the relegation favorites? I think they'll be the worst of the four teams currently listed, but they have a solid cushion on Necaxa. However, the worst is yet to come...

Estudiantes Tecos

Current Relegation Coefficient: 1.22

2010 Apertura Finish: 17th

Right now, the difference between Tecos and Necaxa is very large as far as relegation coefficients go, but based on how much Necaxa has improved and how bad Tecos is, they had to go in this category. What was I going to do, call them a Liguilla contender? This Tecos team was jaw-droppingly poor in the last tournament and have added absolutely no one. A 10 point season is realistic and 15 point season should be expected with all of the teams around them improving rapidly. Any win should be considered an upset. Any draw is a point well earned. They're not completely devoid of quality, but they're certainly the least talented team in Mexico right now.

In the last tournament, they conceded 36 goals in 17 games. That defensive record was the worst in the league and a full eight goals worse than their nearest competitor. They have done nothing to address this problem.

So, is it a serious longshot for Tecos to get relegated? Yes. But it's certainly not impossible. At the very least, they will be in incredibly deep trouble next season when their two 25 point tallies from the 2008 Apertura and 2009 Clausura disappear and they're left with a 20, 19, 15, and their point total from this tournament on their coefficient. They are heavy favorites for last place in this tournament, even if it doesn't quite get them relegated.

Predictions

Disclaimer: I have not gone through match by match. I apologize if I come up with a point total for all 18 teams that is impossible, but it should be pretty close to something that works out mathematically. 

Necaxa: 23 points

Queretaro: 19 points

Atlas: 20 points

Atlante: 15 points

Estudiantes Tecos: 12 points

Relegation Coefficients After 2011 Clausura

Necaxa: 1.147

Queretaro: 1.132

Atlas: 1.157

Atlante: 1.118

Estudiantes Tecos: 1.137

Relegated: Atlante

Continue

Mexican Primera, 2011 Clausura Preview: Monterrey Defends, Tigres Chases, Relegation Battlers Stock Up

After a winter break that had saw me watching a lot of English Premier League, a methadone clinic of sorts for those addicted to football from other parts of the world, La Primera will finally be returning this weekend. God, I didn't even have Serie A, La Liga, and Bundesliga to watch. They were all on winter break. I actually had to spend time with my family because I had nothing better to do. It was disgusting!

Finally, all three of those European leagues and the Mexican Primera have returned, meaning I can start being ironic and watching something other than the English Premier League with a PBR in hand. I mean, come on, you all know the Premier League sold out. It's way too mainstream.

Tigres have been the biggest story of the offseason in Mexico, obtaining new players left and right. Their main contenders have been fairly light on new acquisitions, because really, why spend when you're already great? Tigres have to chase down Monterrey, Santos Laguna, and Cruz Azul. Those three teams already have the firepower to compete.

Beyond Tigres, the second most interesting offseason story was probably the relegation arms race. Bottom team Necaxa and third from bottom side Atlas stocked up big time, making Quaretaro and Atlante the new relegation favorites. Still, the coefficients can be cruel, and it's yet to be seen whether or not the new signings made by Necaxa and Atlas will actually lift them out of relegation danger.

And then there is everyone else. The teams in limbo, fighting for Liguilla and CONCACAF Champions League spots, but true long shots to knock off any of the four aforementioned contenders. Plenty of shuffling has occurred with these teams as well, with Jaguares and Pachuca looking noticeably thinner in their attacking ranks.

This league preview will be broken up into three parts. Today, we'll be looking at Mexico's relegation battlers in detail. Tomorrow, we'll be taking a look at the teams contending for Liguilla. Finally, on Wednesday, we'll take a detailed look at the teams who are set up to make a legitimate run at the 2011 Clausura title. 

If you're a fan of Necaxa, Quaretaro, Atlas, Atlante, or Estudiantes Tecos, you get to read about your team today. Puebla and Jaguares fans, be happy that you have been spared a spot in that section by the slimmest of margins. 

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