Liga MX: Slightly Late Apertura 2018 Prediction

Players of Toluca celebrate after scoring against Morelia during their Mexican Apertura football tournament match at the Nemesio Diez stadium in Toluca, Mexico, on July 22, 2018. (Photo by ROCIO VAZQUEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROCIO VAZQUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Players of Toluca celebrate after scoring against Morelia during their Mexican Apertura football tournament match at the Nemesio Diez stadium in Toluca, Mexico, on July 22, 2018. (Photo by ROCIO VAZQUEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROCIO VAZQUEZ/AFP/Getty Images) /

Before we get too far into the regular season, let’s get my predictions on record.

Cut me a break. I got in the game a little late. I’m here now, though, and I hope Viva Liga MX will be the place to be to get your English-language Liga MX talk and content fix. That being the case, what pre- or early-season would it be without some predictions. So here’s how I expect the table to shake out in this Apertura:

18. Lobos BUAP
Despite a solid Apertura 2017, Lobos conceded 64 goals in 34 total Liga MX matches. That’s nearly two goals per match. They aren’t Veracruz level woeful offensively, but they certainly don’t have enough firepower to overcome such a leaky defense.

17. Veracruz
They just aren’t a very good squad. They scored 12 goals in the 2018 Clausura, which was lowest in the league and conceded 25.  It’s going to take quite a surprising turnaround for Los TIburones to get out of the league basement.

16. Leon
They lost seven 14 matches across both the Apertura and Clausura in 2017/18, so there was some major shuffling of the deck that needed to happen. They have some pieces in players such as Mauro Boselli, but it will take time to build chemistry and I’m sure it will be enough anyway.

15. Pachuca
They just didn’t do anything this offseason. Nothing worth optimism anyway. This team stumbled through the 2017/18 campaigns and just aren’t much better from their offseason of resigning Erik Gutierrez and…some other guys But they’re just guys. It’s going to be a frustrating season for Los Tuzos.

I’m cheating a little and taking into account the way they’ve played in the first week and in the Copa MX. This looks like a solid team that has the capability of surprising other teams along the way. However, there is no player that gives the impression they can make enough of a difference to really catapult Los Zorros forward. I thought about them as high as 8th, but this feels far more likely.

13. Queretaro
Rafa Puente Jr. comes in as the new boss in town after doing well at Lobos BUAP last year, all things considered. There is potential for them to rise higher than this, but they will only go as far as Puente Jr. will take them. What he can get out of them is the main thing to watch.

12. Pumas
Nico Castillo is gone. Jesus Gallardo is gone. Where do the goals come from? Those two had 22 of Pumas’ 38 goals last campaign. They brought in some solid players, but it is still a mystery to me as to who the scorers are. I might even have them way too high, but I am giving them credit for their turnaround from Apertura 2017 to Clausura 2018. Too much credit?

11. Chivas
Maybe this is just wishful thinking from an America fan that wants Chivas to be a worthy opponent. Gone are the manager, goalkeeper, centerback, and Rodolfo Pizarro. Carlos Salcedo is a solid addition on defense and Alan Pulido and Javier Lopez will need to step up their games to drag Guadalajara back to contention. It’s possible.

10. Puebla
Missed out on the Liguilla last season by one point and didn’t lose much. The addition of Jorge Espericueta might be enough to push them in. I have them ranked 10 because I’ve been really impressed with a couple of the other teams ahead of them.

9. Monarcas
Morelia is another club that feels like they are on the cusp. If things break their way, they’ll be fine. If they don’t, Monarcas will find themselves just outside the playoff picture. They’re a solid team, just not one I look at and feel is going to create their own luck…if that makes any sense.

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8. Necaxa
Winning the Supercopa MX over Monterrey was a bit of an eye-opener for me. They play a bit more pacey than I previously thought and Victor Davila is a young exciting player for them. They’re a young team so I expect some growing pains, but watch out for them in the Clausura 2019. Sleeper team.

7. Santos Laguna
The reigning champs lost top-goalscorer, Djaniny to Al-Ahi Saudi, but they’ll remain in the hunt. Julio Furch and Jonathan Rodriguez remain on the goal scoring front, while Osvaldo Martinez and Brian Lozano will provide them service. They won’t win it, but they may have just enough to get into Liguilla.

6. Tijuana
Tijuana had the best defense last year, but lost a lot of the pieces to that puzzle that made it so great. Only 12 goals conceded in the Clausura is crazy, though. They won’t be as good on that front, but Diego Cocca is a good coach and will keep that defense coached up enough to always be in matches.  If Erik Torres and Gustavo Bou have decent seasons, it will another decent year for Xolos.

5. Cruz Azul
As ever, Cruz Azul remains an enigma. They brought in Aguilar and Igor Lichnovsky, as well as some nice wingers and a forward, so there has been a little hype around them. They begin playing in Estadio Azteca now, which might be a dynamic to pay attention too. I’ll believe they’re for real when I see it.

4. Monterrey
They acquired Roldolfo Pizarro and Jesus Gallardo this summer which should help in the attack. The wildcard is new coach, Diego Alonso. How will the coaching style of the new boss take root in this team?

3. Club America
I decided against homering out here. Los Aguilas are certainly talented and they have some exciting players that could potentially breakout for big years (looking at Roger Martinez and Diego Lainez) but since January this has been a team that struggled to finish chances. Until they get that part of their game figured out, it’ll be good but not good enough.

2. Tigres
Tuca’s boys have been a common champion pick for Apertura 2018. I think the minors rule comes in to play here , because it needs to for the sake of narrative. Tigres are aging but still one of the top rosters in Liga MX. Watch them finish two points ahead of 2nd place in the table, but be deducted 3 points for not meeting the required number of minutes for youngsters. 

As I mentioned for Tigres, I am predicting Toluca tops the table sort of by default. This is a really good side, however, and may just win it on their own merits. They got William da Silva from America and Alexis Canelo and up-and-coming forward Ernesto Vega could make up for the loss of Fernando Uribe. There is more than enough firepower to pull this off.

The 2018 Apertura might be one of the more competitive we’ve seen for a little while. I could easily see any of my top five sitting atop the table by the end. Week one of play was exciting but it is hard to analyze such a sample size. After week two, there will be a little more separation and patterns will start to be noticeable. Keep coming back to Viva Liga MX as we grow and bring you more to talk about and debate.