Match: Tigres UANL vs. Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz
Date: Wednesday, August 22nd
Time: 10:00 PM Eastern, 9:00 PM Central, 7:00 PM Pacific, 3:00 AM UTC
Venue: Estdaio Universitario “El Volcan” (San Nicolás de los Garza, Nuevo León)
Since the arrival of Tuca Feretti on the touchline of the Estadio Universitario, Tigres has been the envy of just about every other team in Liga MX if not the entire Western Hemisphere. Thanks to the financial backing of CEMEX, the world’s largest cement company, Tuca and company have been able to arm their Tigres squad with some of the very best players from across the globe. Dominant performances, continental finals, league championships, and talk about Tigres as “el 5to grande” come to mind when thinking of the squad’s recent performances. This season, however, something has just been a little bit off for los felinos.
Rather surprisingly, Tigres come into the match against los Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz on the back of two consecutive league defeats. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Tuca Feretti’s squad was reduced to nine men in one of the matches and missed three penalties and was comprehensively beaten by a team in turmoil after its entire coaching staff quit just two weeks ago. These two performances were some of the worst in recent memory when it comes to Tigres in Liga MX play. Nothing about the way that Tigres played in these two matches would lead you to believe that the squad is filled with some of the world’s best fútbol players. In fact, nothing about this season would make a neutral believe that Tigres was anything other than another average team. Through their first five matches of the 2018 Apertura season, los felinos have a record of 2-0-3 and a goal difference of -1.
Many of Tigres’ problems this season have been related to Tuca Feretti’s insistence of running a strict 4-2-3-1 formation with a focus on maintaining possession. There is a massive amount of focus put upon the defensive midfielders and wingers to facilitate everything that Tigres does when they have possession of the ball. Opposition teams have begun to figure this out and have started to pressure Tigres defensively by clogging up the passing lanes that the deep lying midfielders would ordinarily use to launch an attack. This forces Tigres to have lots of useless possession in their own half as the midfielders and defenders constantly pass back and forth between one another in order to try and open up passing lanes going forward. This problem is capitulated by the fact that Tigres plays with a lone striker. By using a single striker, Tigres enables the opposition’s defense to better clog up passing lanes because they have less men to defend up top. So, if Gignac isn't moving all over the place, constantly receiving balls in dangerous areas, or having a good game Tigres’s formation benefits the opposition’s defense.
This has been one of the worst starts to a season by Tigres in recent memory. In spite of this, Tuca Feretti’s squad find themselves just outside of a liguilla place and a single victory would be enough for them to turn around their season. Rather fortuitously, los felinos will have the chance to turn their season around against one of the worst Liga MX teams both on and off the pitch in los Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz.
Los Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz are a compete and total train wreck at the moment. Head coach Memo Vázquez left his position two weeks ago and has since brought to light the issues of “double contracts” in Mexican fútbol. The contracts, which are designed to circumvent paying taxes on high salaries, have become such as hot button issue since Vázquez left his post as head coach of Veracruz that Mexico’s version of the IRS have begun investigating Liga MX clubs for tax fraud. On top of this, Liga MX officials hired an internationally renowned auditing firm to investigate whether or not Veracruz met the requirements to remain in the league. As if all this wasn’t bad enough, Veracruz went out and hires Juvenal Olmos, a manger who hadn’t coached in over a decade, to fill the role vacated by Vázquez’s departure two weeks ago. Not really sure what Veracruz or Olmos were thinking when they came to an agreement to fill the vacant head coaching position.
On the pitch, los Tiburones Rojos haven't been much better. The lira MX bottom feeders have notched a record of 1-1-3 with a -5 goal difference and find themselves in 17th place. They also find themselves in last place of their Copa MX group with a match they lost 3-0 automatically for failing to meet the youth requirements in the tournament. To make matters worse, there hasn't really been a player that the squad from Veracruz could rely on to score goals when needed.
It would take a massively improved performance for los Tiburones Rojos to even get a draw out of this match against a struggling Tigres side. All of the off the field issues and lackluster play should be too much for the Liga MX bottom feeders to overcome in a very hostile environment at “El Volcan.” Expect Tigres to run away with this match as they attempt to get their lackluster season back on track.