The first weekend of the 2012 Clausura tournament features Monterrey hosting Jaguares Chiapas on Saturday (6 pm ET, Galavision). The beginning of the campaign features the two teams at different places in their objectives and recent history. For Monterrey, the successes of recent years seemed to have run out, and the team may have to start a new era without star striker Humberto Suazo. Meanwhile, Jaguares were the surprise outfit of the 2011 Apertura, and the question for this term will be whether they can repeat their performances in the Apertura, or if they will regress to the mean and struggle this time around.
Even if Suazo ends up leaving during this transfer window, on paper Monterrey remain an immensely talented team. By picking up Angel Reyna during the break from Club America, the expectation will be that los Rayados can retool without having to start over. The issue, however, is that the team seemed like it was going through the motions for much of the Apertura. Perhaps it was stagnancy in the personnel, or fatigue after winning the CONCACAF Champions League in the Spring, or maybe it was an off tournament, but they will certainly look to return to dominance and compete for a title again in the liguilla. They may be one of the most difficult teams to predict ahead of the tournament, and it won't be altogether surprising if they continue to struggle or if they reverse course and return to winning ways. What will be especially interesting to follow is if Suazo's desire to leave the team will drag morale down among his teammates.
For Jaguares, last term represented something of a happy surprise in getting into the liguilla, after being tipped as a relegation candidate at the start of the Apertura. With that risk now gone, the squad may become complacent and drift back towards the bottom of the table. But if Jackson Martinez stays healthy and hungry, he can help the squad stay in the hunt for the liguilla. They seemed to have settled into stability, and while they may regret not making additional moves to stay up with their opponents, they may have the talent and resolve to surprise opponents yet.
Given the way these teams ended the season, it seems like Jaguares have more momentum and could upset Monterrey on the road. But los Rayados have had time to think about last season's failure, and they will probably come out fully focused on taking care of Jaguares. The visitors may suffer from a touch of overconfidence, and a 3-0 scoreline to Monterrey seems quite possible.