After a 5th-place finish in the Apertura 2018, Monterrey has its sights on a title challenge in the Clausura 2019, adding three high-profile “refuerzos,” Including Angel Zaldivar and Argentina international Maxi Meza.
Facing Pachuca in their Liga MX season opener for the Clausura 2019 is a challenge for Monterrey even though they finished 5 spots above the Tuzos in the Apertura 2018. Pachuca made a late charge for the playoffs, but came up short, while Monterrey struggled with injuries most of last season.
Pachuca have consistently performed well the last few years, despite selling off their top players, most notably Hirving Lozano and Erick Gutierrez (both to PSV Eindhoven).
Apertura 2018 result
Pachuca 0, Monterrey 1
Aviles Hurtado scored the lone goal just past the hour mark when Pachuca goalie Alfonso Blanco attempted to scoop the shot around his right post only to allow the ball to skip past him. The Tuzos had the better chances, but were unable to beat Monterrey keeper Marcelo Barovero in his Rayados debut.
Monterrey reached the playoffs and they blitzed Santos Laguna 3-0 on aggregate in the quarterfinals, but crashed out in disappointing fashion on a 1-1 aggregate to Cruz Azul who advanced because they were the higher seed. Although Cruz Azul was the top seed, a semifinal elimination was a disappointment for everyone at Monterrey and the Rayados expect to challenge for the Clausura 2019 title.
It’s perhaps due to this disappointing result that Rayados management went out and invested in some top players over the winter, bringing in Chivas forward Angel Zaldivar, who will reunite with former Chivas teammate Rodolfo Pizarro. Los Rayados also surprised many by purchasing Argentina international Maxi Meza who could reinvigorate their midfield.
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Angel Zaldivar and Maxi Meza are two strong signings that could propel Monterrey into a sustained title challenge in the Clausura. Zaldivar will be looking to rejuvenate his stagnating career and will undoubtedly look at this as a great opportunity where he can step into the role fulfilled by the departed Luis Madrigal (sent to the Chivas). Likewise Meza will be looking to demonstrate that he is a top midfielder and he could prove influential in the build up in play.
Having studied the new signings Monterrey made during the winter transfer window, in conjunction with their wider squad featuring young future stars like Cesar Montes, Jonathan Gonzalez, Alfonso Gonzalez (returning from a knee injury) and Rodolfo Pizarro, it looks exciting for both Rayados and Mexico. The Clausura could see the squad click and becomes a force to be reckoned with. I see Monterrey getting a valuable first weekend win to kick off their season, but I do not see it being completely one-sided as Pachuca can and will make it difficult.