Big guns striving to unseat America
© AFP

Mexican football fans have been eagerly awaiting the start of the Torneo Apertura 2013, which rolls into action this Friday with Queretaro taking on Morelia and Tijuana facing Atlas. FIFA.com sets the scene for a Liga MX campaign that promises plenty.

The defending champions
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It is a saying that reigning Mexican champions America have adhered to in retaining the vast majority of the squad that won them their 11th title. Under the guidance of Miguel Herrera, Las Águilas are soaring again, though the departure of Christian Benitez, the leading scorer in the land in the last three seasons, to Qatari football leaves them with a significant hole to fill.

Stepping into the breach are promising youngster Raul Jimenez and Ecuadorian Narciso Mina, who spent most of last season on the bench. The man charged with the task of supplying them is 24-year-old Colombian playmaker Andres Andrade, who joins the club from America de Cali and is noted for his pace and attacking threat.

The leading candidates
Monterrey have been regular title contenders ever since Victor Manuel Vucetich arrived in the dugout, as borne out by the fact that they will representing the CONCACAF region for the third time running at the FIFA Club World Cup later this year. Continuity and a happy dressing room have been the key ingredients to Los Rayados’ recent success, factors that should remain unchanged despite the departure of Aldo de Nigris. Monterrey have brought in 25-year-old Colombian forward Dorlan Pabon, formerly with Real Betis, to partner Chile international Humberto Suazo up front. 

Arch-rivals Tigres, who share the Estadio Nuevo Leon with Monterrey, are also aiming high. Argentinian midfielder Guido Pizarro has joined a side with a very settled look about it. And after ending the Clausura 2013's regular season as leaders, Ricardo Ferretti’s team are looking for nothing less than a repeat of their Apertura 2011 title win and the chance to confirm their status as one of the strongest squads in the country. 

Cruz Azul will be keen to put last season’s championship play-off final agony behind them, having gone within two minutes of winning the title only for America to extend their trophy drought. La Máquina Celeste have brought in ex-Morelia man Joao Rojas to strengthen their midfield, the Ecuadorian joining Christian Gimenez, Mariano Pavone and Pablo Barrera as part of a dangerous front line that will be intent on bringing some long-awaited silverware to the club Cruz Azul.

Recently founded Tijuana are now established as one of the heavyweights of Mexican football. Though only six years old, Los Xolos already have a national league title in the bag and were just a penalty kick away from eliminating eventual finalists Atletico Mineiro in the last eight of this year’s Copa Libertadores.

One of the keys to their success was coach Antonio Mohamed, who has since decided to return to his native Argentina. His replacement Jorge Almiron has reinforced the side by bringing in American striker Herculez Gomez and the young Argentinian Dario Benedetto.

Dark horses
Determined to get back into regular contention, Guadalajara have spent the last few seasons backing up their prolific youth set-up with some big-name signings, the latest of them being Aldo de Nigris, who has arrived with the aim of taking Chivas back to the top. 

After impressing on their return to the top flight, Leon had a season to forget last time out. Argentinian forward Mauro Boselli has been brought in to sharpen their cutting edge up front and make them a force to be reckoned with once more.

Pumas UNAM have snapped up another Argentinian in Ariel Nahuelpan with the idea of playing him alongside his compatriot Martin Bravo in attack. As well as a posse of promising youngsters in their ranks, Pumas could well have the experience and know-how they need to land their eighth league title. 

Star signings
In addition to the aforementioned names there are a clutch of other new faces worth keeping an eye on. Known for their shrewd acquisitions, Jaguares have strengthened their hand by purchasing Argentinian forward Lucas Viatri. Another new arrival to Mexican football is Paraguayan international Richard Ortiz, who will be bolstering the Toluca rearguard, while Atlante have acquired the services of Argentinian midfielder Martin Galmarini.

Among the bright young prospects looking to make their name in the Liga MX is 22-year-old Ecuadorian Juan Jose Govea, who has the onerous job of replacing Joao Rojas as Monarcas’ playmaker. 

Have your say
Who will win the Mexican title? Simply click on ‘Add your comment’ to make your opinion known.