New year. New season. Fresh start. Just 3+ weeks after witnessing América claim its 14th league title (most in Liga MX), the Clausura 2024 is right around the corner and will see its opening minutes of play go down in the Estadio Corregidora as Mauro Gerk’s Gallos Blancos play host to Toluca and new manager Renato Paiva on Friday at 8 pm ET.
Gerk is entering his 4th season as club manager, during which he’s compiled a record of 10W, 18D, 23L in a total of 51 league matches (doesn’t include the 2023 Leagues Cup matches). While it’s by no means an impressive record over the span of 3 seasons, a closer look at the details says a lot more.
Led by an ownership group (Grupo Caliente) who clearly have established their priority in Xolos, Querétaro have been left to collect the remains of mostly unwanted/unfit players throughout the league that Caliente hands over last second. And if there is a productive player on Gerk’s roster, he’ll more likely than not be ripped apart from the club at season’s end to either be transferred to Tijuana or sold off to another club.
So, it’s been a tough task to say the least for Gerk since his arrival. But the fact he’s managed to garner as many points as he has over the past couple seasons (20 and 19) with such a talent-deprived roster and has been forced to give up his best players every six months says a lot about the work he and his staff have put in.
Toluca on the other hand, are coming off a tremendously disappointing end to their Apertura 2023. Following their 3-1 victory over Gallos in Matchday 12, Toluca sat 6th in the league table with 18 points, and it seemed just a matter of time for them to clinch a liguilla spot. They ended up losing 4 out of their last 5 and ultimately missed out on that 10th and final play-in spot by a single point. They finished 12th in the league table.
To make matters worse, ‘Nacho’ Ambriz was let go by the Diablos Rojos with just 4 matches left on the season schedule. Interim Carlos María Morales then failed to deliver Toluca into the top 10. And just like that, Toluca’s hopeful season vanished right before their eyes.
However, Portuguese manager Renato Paiva has been brought on to help redirect Toluca’s ship. There isn’t much to judge him on as a manager yet, but he did lead Ecuador’s Independiente del Valle to a title in his first season there and also took over León for a few months for the Apertura 2022 season before his quick departure.
All of this being said, both clubs are desperate to kick-start their Clausura 2024 campaign and get rolling as quickly as possible, one of them to stay away from the relegation fee and the other to deliver their fans a much expected title.