With the new year in full swing, here are some bold predictions for 2018....
Antonio “Turco” Mohamed will no longer be manager at Monterrey. Listen, you either love or hate Mohamed. For some time now, rumor has it he has been flirting with the idea of quitting Monterrey. After losing the league final to rivals Tigres, Rayados arrive virtually unchanged from last season, for the exception of speedy winger Jonathan Urretaviscaya. Urreta’s arrival could be hinting at life after Mohamed, given that he isn’t exactly a player that suits Mohamed’s system. Either the plan here is to add some tactical flexibility, or they are giving their future manager some extra options to build from (Juan Carlos Osorio anybody? Cough cough...).
Tigres will not win a league title this year. This prediction just feels right. More often than not, it was the individual talent of Eduardo Vargas or Andre-Pierre Gignac that bailed out the current league champions. At one point or another, their luck has to run out right?
It is arguable that the best Tigres side of the last few years was the one with Rafael Sobis and Guido Pizarro. While Vargas and Rafael Carioca were brilliant down the stretch last season, consistency will be their biggest enemy.
Lastly, Tigres’ number one priority this year is to win the CONCACAF Champions League and attend the FIFA Club World Cup. Who needs league titles when you have three in the last two years.
Caixinha will succeed at Cruz Azul. Like Carlo Ancelotti taking over Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich in 2016, Cruz Azul are poised for league glory under Caixinha.
Okay, not really, but Caixinha looks like the perfect fit for La Maquina. Cruz Azul are coming off a manager like Paco Jemez, who is pragmatic and more offensive minded. Like Ancelotti, Caixinha has a completely different style of play from that of his predecessor, and that’s not exactly a bad thing. That kind of change generally serves as a motivator across the team and keeps their players fresh on their toes.
Chivas and Club America will face off at least once in a knockout phase. Clasico Regios are great and all, but let’s be real, the Clasico Nacional is still king. Fans already got a taste of what a Clasico Nacional looks like in a knockout phase in 2016, in both the Copa MX and the 2016 Apertura, and with CONCACAF Champions League also in the equation this season, the probability of this happening gets a nice boost.
The CONCACAF Champions League will actually be good this year. Speaking of the CONCACAF Champions League, this year’s edition promises to be an interesting one. The change of format helps, but there is also a lot of interesting storylines in this one. Tigres have made it known that international glory is their primary objective, while the prospect of a possible Chivas vs Club America final adds some extra flavor to this one. Then there is also the Major League Soccer teams, who look quite decent for once. FC Dallas, Toronto FC, and New York Red Bulls in particular are no slouch, and at least in terms of style, could surprise a Liga MX team or two (or three).
Rafael Marquez will be in Mexico’s World Cup roster. Do you have any doubts?
Cesar Montes, Nestor Araujo, Oswaldo Alanis, Edson Alvarez, Erick Gutierrez, Rodolfo Pizarro, or Orbelin Pineda will make the move abroad. There is just too much talent in this group for one of these players not to make the move to a European club. Nestor Araujo and Oswaldo Alanis look the most ready for obvious reasons. Meanwhile, Edson Alvarez and Cesar Montes have the potential to gradually be stable performers somewhere in Europe. Guti and Orbelin are perhaps the tougher options because they only thrive in certain situations, but there should be no shortage of interest from sides in the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal. Finally, Pizarro is arguably the most talented of this group, and also coincidentally the one that gets the most overlooked by the national team coach. Pizarro can play as an interior midfielder, fullback, winger, right behind the striker, you name it. Most importantly, he is deadly inside the box. He has all the characteristics of a modern player.
The Mexico National team will not get to the “quinto partido”. You have to believe Mexico have the talent and history to at least get to the Round of 16. Brazil, though, will just be too tough to beat. Switzerland can always win the group, but Neymar and company are coming into this one with a point to prove. Under normal circumstances, Mexico is always a sort of “bogey” team for Brazil, but there is too much pressure on Mexico’s side to think they can put up a huge upset. Now let me just wipe the tears off my face....
What are your bold predictions for 2018?