Two teams on the outskirts of the Liga MX relegation zone get an early chance to create some breathing room.
Atlas went 7 games without scoring to open the Apertura 2018 season and the Zorros can’t afford another slow start. Querétaro snuck into the Liga MX playoffs on the final weekend last season and they won’t mind if Atlas’ offensive struggles continue because the Gallos Blancos begin life without goalie Tiago Volpi.
Atlas general manager Rafa Márquez went out and got some veterans right from the outset of the transfer market and he is hoping that Osvaldo Martínez and Jesús Isijara can provide some life.
Meanwhile, the Gallos Blancos saw Volpi – one of the league’s best keepers – return to his native Brazil in hopes of getting noticed by Tite, Brazil’s national team coach. They also sold central defender Hiram Mier to the Chivas, while adding 20-year-old Ivory Coast striker Ake Arnaud.
Apertura 2018 result
Atlas 0, Querétaro 0
These two teams played to an insipid scoreless draw in their season opener. Atlas buzzed around their offensive half and fired 18 shots, but Volpi was spectacular, making 5 saves. Atlas coach Gerardo Espinoza would last another 7 games before he was unceremoniously fired.
Querétaro did not manage to get a single shot on goal as new coach Rafa Puente, Jr., was still familiarizing himself with his roster. Teen sensation Marcel Ruiz was still a diamond in the rough and had not yet claimed a starting spot.
Corral – Novaretti – Romo – Samudio
Guemez – Gómez
Villalva – Ruiz – Cortizo
The Gallos Blancos found success with Camilo Sanvezzo acting as a lone striker, with Marcel Ruiz supporting him, while Jordi Cortizo and Daniel Villalva manned the flanks. It will be interesting to see how coach Puente aligns the callow Arnaud: whether he tries to pair him up front with Sanvezzo (8 goals last season) or whether he installs him as a false 9. The defense will be the primary concern and the health of veteran Diego Novaretti will be key. It’s possible that the Gallos Blancos open with a 5-man back line. Young Juan Ruiz will get the first chance to claim the starting position between the pipes.
Govea – González – Pareja – Calderón
Isijara – Vigón – Martînez – Andrade
Jefferson Duque moved into the starting line-up later in the Apertura once he proved to be a capable scorer. Andrés Andrade and Ricky Álvarez were expected to provide punch also, but Andrade struggled and Álvarez played himself into a reserve role. He should be more familiar with Liga MX now and could be a productive sub from the outset. Atlas sold central defender Leiton Jiménez and Argentine veteran Nico Pareja can step in. Osvaldo Martínez and Juan Pablo Vigón will be expected to provide some service to Duque.
More from Viva Liga MX
- Guillermo Ochoa is out 4-6 weeks
- The Clásico Regiomontano is Heating Up
- Pumas: In Search of Regaining a Top Spot
- Why the United States Is Set to Overtake Mexico on the World Stage
- Erick Gutierrez is out once again
Querétaro: Forward Marcel Ruiz might be called upon to take the next step and become a take-charge player. If he thrives, he could be a key player in Mexico’s Under-20 World Cup squad in Poland. He could also start to earn call-ups to the senior team.
Atlas: Midfielder Osvaldo Martínez should add some veteran savvy and tactical flexibility that should make the Zorros a bit more dangerous. Coach Guillermo Hoyos will expect the 5-time Liga MX champion to provide steady leadership too.
Querétaro played well at home last season (5-1-2) and I’d expect them to start out with a conservative approach, aiming to give their 21-year-old goalie a chance to build up a comfort level. I think coach Hoyos should be aggressive with his substitution patterns and chase the 3 points, especially since the Atlas defense is not particularly strong.