Liga MX W2W4: Jemez's debut, Pachuca-Leon head Clausura Week 1
MEXICO CITY -- There was really no wait for Liga MX to come back. After a crazy Liga MX final between Club America and Tigres that wrapped up on Christmas Day, Queretaro and Veracruz start off the 2017 Clausura on Three Kings' Day.
Here are five storylines to follow this weekend:
1. What will happen with the Monterrey-Edwin Cardona saga?
On Colombian radio show, Al Alargue, Edwin Cardona talked about a wide range of topics: from his recent phone conversation with Sevilla manager Jorge Sampaoli to the supposed $12 million offer Palmeiras made to Monterrey to get the Colombian on a plane to Brazil. Cardona admitted his desire to land a contract with Palmeiras but specified that his transfer clause is at $15 million, a price tag Palmeiras was unwilling to pay.
When Cardona decides to take over games, there are few players in Liga MX that can match him. His quality is exceptional, however, his performance last season was disconcerting. His nonchalance and sluggishness provoked head coach Antonio "Turco" Mohamed to relegate him to the bench. In the 2016 Apertura, he scored just one goal, while in the 2016 Clausura, the Colombian notched an impressive eight goals (two coming in the Liguilla).
The departure of Cardona is still a hot topic of conversation in the league since the international transfer window is still open for another month, but if this Sunday in Puebla, a new Cardona, similar to the Clausura version, takes the field, more than one Rayado supporter will smile.
2. Paco Jemez's debut couldn't have come against tougher opponent
Cruz Azul players such as Jose de Jesus Corona have detailed Paco Jemez's coaching forms and how his way of seeing the game has been easily understood by the squad. The arrival of Jemez provides a reason to look forward for a club that has succumbed to despair that's difficult to explain, unless your team is La Maquina. Not only is the club experiencing a 20-year-old league title drought, but the team hasn't participated in the Liguilla in the past five seasons.
Jemez has a hot potato on his hands, and his debut couldn't have come against a tougher side. If Jemez' style predicates as extreme fundamentals the possession of the ball and the high-press, Alfonso Sosa's Necaxa feasts from the counterattack and taking advantage of free spaces left by attack-minded teams, just ask Diego Alonso's Pachuca. Cruz Azul will have to play an intelligent game to defeat Los Rayos
3. Pachuca prepares for life without Rodolfo Pizarro
Los Tuzos' manager Diego Alonso saw Rodolfo Pizarro's departure from Pachuca coming. For the past three offseasons, Pizarro had been a hot commodity in Liga MX, provoking a series of tempting bids. Pachuca overturned all of these bids, feeling that Pizarro played a major role in the club's title hopes.
Alonso, who converted Pizarro from a right-back into a modern No.10, didn't sound worried on ESPN Radio Formula as he spoke about Pizarro's transfer to Chivas. He sounded calm and confident that players like Victor Guzman and Erick Aguirre were ready to replace the talented midfielder.
Pachuca will begin a new chapter Saturday against Javier Torrente's Leon, and it's worth mentioning that both clubs have good enough squads to face off in a hypothetical Liga MX final come May.
4. Chivas hosts Pumas and their marquee signing "Nico" Castillo
Going the Chile way has become fashionable in Liga MX, especially after Edson Puch's fabulous debut season at Necaxa. In the upcoming season there'll be 18 Chileans in all in Liga MX, and Pumas will have two Chile internationals in Nicolas Castillo and Bryan Rabello.
In 2016, Castillo scored 29 goals for Universidad Catolica, while Rabello had a dismal year with Santos Laguna. In November of last year, current Paris Saint-Germain manager Unai Emery told El Pais that Rabello was a difficult player to coach because he never played like a competitor. Pumas' head coach Francisco "Paco" Palencia will have to work miracles to make Rabello into the competitor that Emery never saw at Sevilla.
Meanwhile at Chivas, striker Alan Pulido will look to start his scoring streak Saturday. His goals will be important to determine exactly how far Matias Almeyda's team will go in the Clausura. Pumas' Castillo will certainly like to get his name on the scoresheet in his debut as well, so Chivas' defenders are bound to have a busy night.
5. Pre-seasonless Tigres faces determined Santos
In San Nicolas de los Garza, the party never concluded after Tigres lifted their fifth league title after beating Club America on Christmas day. For Tigres' footballers, vacations were scarce, and Tigres' XI against Santos will likely include several surprises.
Los Guerreros will not hide anything and their objective is to start off the season on the right foot. Santos is a team that should be involved in the Clausura's Liguilla, and head coach Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre knows that the team needs to make 30 points in order to secure a place in it. Last season, Santos finished with 16 points, so De la Torre has a lot of work on his hands.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.