Club Tijuana winger Joe Corona after scoring a goal. The Tijuana Xolos face Monarcas Morelia in the opening game of the Mexican Primera Division 2012 Clausura season on Friday, January 6, 2012.
Monarcas Morelia and Tijuana Xolos play the first game of the Clausura, while Cruz Azul vs. UANL Tigres is perhaps the round's best match.
There are pros and cons to an Apertura - Clausura system, like the Mexican Primera uses. The pros are obvious. Teams can win two titles in a year and if a team is terrible, they may only have to endure being terrible for 17 games. The con is that ownership cannot sell a two-year rebuilding process to a fanbase, since that would require them to suck for four tournaments. This leads to the knee-jerk reactions and manager carousel that makes Mexican football awesome.
The Clausura 2012 will feature the Tijuana Xolos fighting teams like Atlas and Queretaro for relegation, while Club America tries to turn things around after an abysmal Apertura. Three teams will have to juggle the league and Copa Libertadores, while four teams are still alive in the CONCACAF Champions League knockout stages. Tijuana and Monarcas Morelia kick off the season on Friday night.
Monarcas Morelia vs. Club Tijuana
Friday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Tijuana appeared to be digging themselves a hole they wouldn't get out of in the relegation race to start the Apertura, but finished strong to give themselves an excellent chance to avoid the drop this season. They will likely need to take just over one point per game to stay up. They have added a couple of Americans to their left side, in Edgar Castillo and Greg Garza, and they could be competing for one starting spot at left back.
Morelia made a couple of offseason changes, but returns the core of the team that helped them into Liguilla over the last two tournaments. Rafael Marquez Lugo and Miguel Sabah will be key going forward once again, and their first choice defense is solid. They are, however, a team lacking depth in midfield and defense, and will struggle if they suffer a high volume of injuries.
Tijuana's tough to beat at home, but their road record is less than stellar. Expect their defense to crack a couple of times in the opener. Tijuana are also without top striker Dayro Moreno, who was recently in a car accident in his native Colombia.
Pick: Morelia 2-1 Tijuana
Cruz Azul vs. UANL Tigres
Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET
TV: Azteca and FOX Deportes
Following their title in the 2011 Apertura, Tigres held on to the core of their team in the offseason, and their top-notch youth players will only get better with more playing time. They lost Danilinho to Atletico Mineiro, but made a great like-for-like replacement signing in Mexican international Elias Hernandez. There is no reason to believe that they will not be able to compete both in the Primera and in Copa Libertadores.
Cruz Azul also qualified for Copa, and made a high profile addition in Omar Bravo. The Mexican international striker played most recently with Sporting Kansas City in MLS and had a fantastic preseason. They did not reinforce their aging midfield or average defense, however, and will require lots of goals and great play from goalkeeper Jesus Corona to compete for trophies.
Away from home, Tigres will likely play a conservative game, and they're tough to break down. These teams are too good going forward to play to a 0-0, but don't expect an open encounter.
Pick: Cruz Azul 1-1 Tigres
Monterrey vs. Jaguares Chiapas - Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Queretaro vs. Club America - Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Chivas Guadalajara vs. Atlante - Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Santos Laguna vs. Pachuca - Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET
San Luis vs. UNAM Pumas - Saturday, 9:45 p.m. ET
Puebla vs. Atlas - Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Toluca vs. Estudiantes Tecos - Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET