Rayos de Necaxa and Tigres de la UANL are set to kick off the inaugural game of the Guard1anes 2020 season tonight at 8:30 ET (7:30 CT) in Estadio Victoria. Both teams arrive having experienced very different offseasons, and as a result have very different expectations for this season, despite both head coaches being known for their team’s physicality and grittiness on the field and knowing how to get the most out of their players.
Necaxa arrive at opening night having switched up about half of the existing Clausura 2020 roster. They had 11 players leave, most notably goal-scorer Mauro Quiroga who was transferred to Atlético San Luis, as well as keeper Hugo González’s loan ending and being called back to Rayados. Keeper Yosgart Gutiérrez also left the club due to his decision to retire from football altogether. Not to mention, defender Rodrigo Noya who also left for San Luis to join his ex-coach “Memo” Vázquez. The club added 12 players in response, with about half of the players being loaned in and the other half being transferred permanently.
Something that comes as no surprise is the fact that Necaxa head coach Alfonso Sosa is reuniting with three of his ex-players during his tenure at Atlético San Luis. Sosa made that San Luis team work in a remarkable way having been promoted a year ago before his unexpected dismissal in favor of Gustavo Matosas. A key player to watch for on Sosa’s squad is the arrival of Colombian striker Joao Rodríguez from Central Córdoba (Argentinian First Division). Necaxa’s defense is also expected to be of quality, as “Poncho” Sosa’s teams usually are. It remains to be seen if this new look Necaxa does respond and whether or not they are able to fit together accordingly after a disappointing Clausura 2020, where they had only obtained 11 points through 10 matches, placing 14th in the league table.
Shifting over to the visitors, Tigres had another usual offseason. In other words, not many changes. Maybe a couple reinforcements in certain areas of need, but no major team overhaul. Ferretti’s team had the departure of two major players; Enner Valencia and Jurgen Damm. The rest of the roster remained intact. The team only had two additions which were made to replace the aforementioned departures; first off, Atlas youngster Ulises Cardona was loaned to Tigres for the upcoming football year to play on the wings in place of Damm; the second addition was Uruguayan Leo Fernández, whose loan at Toluca was up, allowing him to arrive at Tigres. Fernández doesn’t replace Valencia’s exact position on the field, but is a huge offensive threat nonetheless who proved his abilities at Toluca last semester.
But those moves weren’t anything compared to president Miguel Garza’s exit back in the beginning of June. If Tigres had any meaningful and fate-changing moves, it had to be this one. Having worked side by side with “El Inge” Rodríguez in both of his club tenures, and finally having been handed team presidency in 2018, Garza put together one of the most consistent and successful teams in Mexican Football history. While Rodríguez was in charge of the ship, Garza was the one keeping both Ferretti and his players happy, honest, and focused on delivering, as he dealt with every-day issues. With “El Inge” back in charge, Tigres fans can live calmly knowing their team is well led, but we will finally see what life is like post-Miguel Garza after a decade.
All in all, Tigres continue to be the championship-caliber team we’ve come to know and love, and there is no way that status is changing, at least for this season. With Gignac, Pizarro, Ayala, and Nahuel as the team’s backbone, along with all the other star-studded players on the squad led by head coach “Tuca” Ferretti, this franchise can undoubtedly continue to expect great results.
PREDICTION: With Necaxa playing its first official game in four and a half months and still adjusting to a 50% team overhaul, I expect Tigres to roar first this season in Aguascalientes. With an anxious Leo Fernández and all the expectations surrounding him, along with the chemistry he and Gignac showed in the Copa por México, Tigres have no reason why not to come away with a win tonight. Tigres win by 2.