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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.