Here are your five conclusions from the first week of play in the 2018 Liga MX Apertura.
Nico Castillo who?
The new Liga MX season kicked off on Friday with Pumas UNAM getting a 2-0 win over Veracruz. The Universitarios arrived to the new season without arguably one of the best Liga MX strikers of the last few seasons, Nico Castillo, who left for Benfica during the offseason. Castillo’s departure left a big gaping hole in Pumas’s attack, but also with plenty of money to spend on new players. Against Veracruz, the Universitarios used the opportunity to show off their new-look team, and in the process looked promising, as they got a well deserved victory. Title contenders, probably not, but Pumas have more or less the potential to be a once again a Liguilla team.
Cruz Azul shine in Estadio Azteca return
Title contenders you say? One team that many have as their “surprise” contender for this season is Cruz Azul. The Pedro Caixinha revolution has continued in La Noria, and after an offseason that saw them bring in players like Milton Caraglio, Elias Hernandez, and Ivan Marcone, maybe it is time to start believing in Cruz Azul again. On Saturday, in their home return to the Estadio Azteca, the Cementeros left it late but caught fire by beating Puebla 3-0. Coincidentally, all three goalscorers for Cruz Azul were new signings: Andres Renteria, Caralgio, and Hernandez.
Tigres will be Tigres
You get the feeling that this will be another season in which Tigres will quietly stamp themselves as the big favorites to lift the title. Their opening game against Club León epitomized everything Tigres have been about in recent campaigns. Tigres’s quality is just too good to ignore, and although their collective zing has suffered in recent campaigns, they still have great players that can make all the difference individually. Take Lucas Zelarayan’s superb 38th minute free kick. It gave Tigres a boost heading into halftime, where thereafter Andre-Pierre Gignac notched his first goal of the campaign to hand Tigres a quiet 2-0 win to start the campaign. It’s not that Tigres will just steamroll through opponents. They don’t have to. They have enough quality where they can sometimes win comfortably, then lose a couple games and still be considered a legitimate favorite because of the kind of quality their players have.
Chivas fall in first game post-Almeyda
Life has been tough in recent months for Chivas fans. Yes, they won the CONCACAF Champions League but they lost their coach and their best player in the process. With fan favorites Matias Almeyda and Rodolfo Pizarro gone from the Rebaño Sagrado, life was never going to be easy for Chivas in their first game of the season. A visit to the Estadio Caliente, a venue notoriously difficult to play in for the Goats, was their first encounter, and as expected, a defeat was always in the cards for the men in red and white. Understandably, it was the first game of the season, and a lot can change across 17 Weeks. Nonetheless, after Chivas’s 2-1 defeat Xolos de Tijuana, it is safe to say that Jose Saturnino Cardozo has a lot of work to do if they plan on changing things around.
Necaxa take down Águilas
The good news for Chivas fans is that they aren’t alone in their opening week sorrow. Rivals Club América suffered defeat in their first game, losing to Necaxa 2-1 on Sunday. Las Águilas know this season is title or bust, but coach Miguel Herrera has a couple problems to worry about this season, no more than the injury to Jeremy Menez that will keep him out for practically the entire season.
Meanwhile, Chilean forward Victor Davila is rapidly becoming one of Liga MX’s best at just 20-years-old. Davila was sensational for Necaxa last season, and it didn’t take long for him to open his account this season. Davila not only scored Necaxa’s opener, but a one-two with Brian Fernandez led to their second. You have to wonder how much longer it’s going to take before the rumors from Europe start surfacing. Davila is the real deal.