Two teams coming off remarkable continental campaigns, but in starkly different places in the promedio table, square off in the final game of round one in the 2011 Apertura. Monterrey, having won the CONCACAF Champions League two months ago, has its sights firmly set on reclaiming the Mexican title after being edged out in last season's Liguilla by eventual champions Pumas. Jaguares, on the other hand, coming off an unexpected run to the quarterfinals of the Copa Libertadores, now has to face the very real prospect of relegation, albeit with a vastly overhauled squad.
Monterrey, on the other hand, has not made too many changes to its squad, though the changes it has made should prove more than enough to keep the team well in contention despite commitments in other competitions. César Delgado is a quality replacement for Osvaldo Martínez, and highly-rated young full back Darvin Chávez should also be a good pickup and could slot in at left back right away.
Despite the two teams' differing place in the table and contrasting pedigrees, Jaguares can actually boast an impressive record against their visitors. They can boast seven wins to Monterrey's four, with seven draws. Monterrey's emphatic 4-1 win in Chiapas during the 2011 Clausura was in fact the team's first in its eight most recent encounters with Jaguares. The absences of Humberto Suazo and Walter Ayoví, having just represented their respective national teams in the Copa América, and the possible absence of the injured Aldo De Nigris are all further indication that this game could be less straightforward for Monterrey than many would think.
Abraham Carreño and Sergio Santana could replace the missing duo of Aldo De Nigris and Humberto Suazo, with Delgado and Neri Cardozo providing additional firepower from the wing positions. Héctor Morales and Jesús Zavala are likely to link up in the middle of a 4-4-2 midfield that can morph into a 4-2-4 in attack. Across the back, Chávez and Ricardo Osorio will flank Hiram Mier and José Maria Basanta, while Jonathan Orozco will start between the posts.
For Jaguares, the game against Monterrey will represent a stern test for an overhauled team making its competitive debut. Luis Gabriel Rey and Franco Arizala could join Jackson Martínez to form a three-man, all-Colombian frontline. Gerardo Espinoza will slot right in at central midfielder, while Ismael Fuentes and Miguel Ángel Martínez will retain their places in the center of defense in front of the now first-choice Fabián Villaseñor. Defense was a problem area for Jaguares during their 2011 Clausura campaign, and without any significant changes, this could be a problem area once more, especially with other areas of the team improving.
Despite the various absences, Monterrey will still be considered favorites for this one. Jaguares' revamped frontline will still need time to gel, as opposed the the Monterrey back four, which has plenty of experience together, minus Chávez. Still, with Monterrey lacking some of their biggest offensive threats and having to travel to the south of Mexico, don't be surprised if the two teams play out to a draw.
Jaguares-Monterrey kicks off at 7pm EDT on Sunday, and can be found on Fox Deportes and Azteca América.