Tigres UANL welcome reigning back-to-back champions Club Leon to Monterrey on Saturday evening in their first home game of the new Apertura 2014 season of Liga MX.
Kickoff at Tigres’ infamous El Volcan stadium is on 27th July at 8:00pm EST / 5:00pm PST. The game will be televised live in the USA on Univision Deportes Network
Neither side were particularly impressive in the opening weekend as Tigres played out a dull 0-0 draw with Atlas in Guadalajara and Leon were toppled 2-1 by Club America in front of their own fans in Guanajuato.
Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti’s tactical approach has always been to build his teams on an astute backline rather than a flamboyant attack, and after losing the opening leg of the Supercopa MX 4-1 to Morelia in early July Tigres have worked hard to improve their defending. The manager will have been delighted to have seen his team come close to reversing the 4-1 loss in the second leg until an unfortunate late goal saw Morelia sneak through 5-4 on aggregate, and will have been even happier for the trend of improvement to continue with a clean sheet against the new financial powerhouse Atlas last weekend.
Nonetheless, Ferretti is still a man under pressure. He knows there cannot be a repeat of the last Clausura in which Tigres failed to win until week eight. A victory against reigning champions Leon this weekend would ease some of the pressure and give his side a solid foundation to use as a springboard for a genuine title challenge - a challenge that became more believable this week with quotes from the club’s president suggesting that Alan Pulido will be staying at the club and not joining Greek side Olympiakos.
Despite all the fanfare surrounding Leon, in truth their league form has been disappointing since Christmas. In the Clausura they languished a long way outside the top eight until six points from their final two games saw them qualify for the Liguilla on goal difference, and in last week’s defeat against Club America they lacked the sparkle that saw them brush aside Superlider Cruz Azul, Toluca and Pachuca on their way to back-to-back titles.
Manager Gustavo Matosas has reasonable excuses for their league form. In the Clausura he explicitly stated that he was prioritizing their ultimately unsuccessful Copa Libertadores campaign, while last weekend it was apparent that Vazquez, Marquez and Peña are all still feeling the effects of the World Cup. The loss of Montes to long-term injury will also seriously hinder their ability to create chances, and most Leon fans will readily accept that a third consecutive title is highly unlikely.
The fact that Matosas has delivered two titles in twelve months means he will be afforded some early-season wobbles without too much pressure, but the fans and players will still want to avoid the ignominy of sitting last in the table with no points from two games.
Leon won the last encounter between the two when they triumphed 3-0 in April and their last battle at El Volcan ended 1-1 in November 2013. Tigres haven’t beat Leon since the Panzas Verdes returned to the Liga MX after a ten year absence in 2012.