Three coaches will be making their Apertura 2019 debut as Matchday 9 kicks off on Friday night.
It’s been nearly two weeks since any Liga MX team has kicked a ball in anger as leagues around the world went on hiatus for the FIFA break. Mexico’s league resumes with three games on Friday night.
Most fans in Mexico will be focused on Saturday’s two Clásicos – the Clásico Tapatío is followed by the Clásico Capitalino – but Friday’s Matchday 9 triple-header offers the unusual prospect of watching three coaches make their Apertura 2019 debuts.
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Atlético de San Luis, Cruz Azul and Veracruz each made coaching changes heading into the break although Veracruz’s vacancy dates back to Matchday 7 when Enrique Meza resigned after the Tiburones 5-0 loss to Querétaro. The other two changes took place after Matchday 8. San Luis replaced Alfonso Sosa with Gustavo Matosas and Cruz Azul dumped Pedro Caixinha in favor of Robert Dante Siboldi.
Liga MX Friday kick-off
Atlético San Luis at Puebla
Gustavo Matosas returns to Liga MX after a poor 23-game term at Atlas in 2015. His Tuneros are in 10th place with a 3-2-2 record (they’ve already had their bye), but ownership felt the club was not playing with enough style after their summer spending spree. The stodgy approach was evident in the team’s offensive numbers – 7 goals in 7 games.
Matosas will move past Sosa’s conservative tactics, likely relying on flashy playmaker Richard Centurión who never won Sosa’s confidence. It might take time for San Luis to embrace the new strategy and Matosas will no doubt tinker with his line-up until he identifies the right personnel for his scheme.
Puebla will be playing on their third game under new coach Juan Reynoso. The Peruvian manager debuted with a home win against FC Juárez on Aug. 29, the Camoteros’ lone victory of the season. Reynoso has a limited roster at his disposal and star striker Lucas Cavallini has yet to get untracked.
This game figures to be fought in midfield and 2 goals should be enough to win it.
Cruz Azul at Veracruz
Siboldi has the responsibility of turning around the Cementeros’ fortunes and he’ll be coaching against his last team. The Uruguayan failed to win a single one of the 20 games he spent with Veracruz before he was sent packing after the Tiburones lost to Pachuca 9-2.
Cruz Azul was seen as a title contender, but have failed to impress through eight matches, stumbling to a 2-4-2 start (good for 11th place). It will be up to Siboldi – a former Cementeros goaltender and once an interim coach for La Máquina – to pick up the spirits of his talented roster. It’s possible that striker Jonathan Rodríguez will find more playing time as he was at Santos Laguna when Siboldi led the Guerreros to the Clausura 2018 Liga MX title.
In front of the other bench will be Enrique López Zarza who was named to take over the toothless Tiburones on Sept 4. He has been tasked with finding a way to end Veracruz’s historic winless streak. The Port City team has not won in more than a year and last month set the world record for most consecutive domestic league matches without a win (34).
I expect Cruz Azul to be aggressive, but it would not surprise me if they play nervously, terrified of being the first team to lose to Veracruz since Aug. 25, 2018.
Tigres at Tijuana
The fifth-place Tigres take the longest current unbeaten streak in Liga MX to Tijuana to face the Xolos. Tuca Ferretti’s side has gone 2-4-0 in their past six games, but those four ties have seen them slide down the leader board. The Tigres have scored only 7 goals during their six-game unbeaten streak and they’ll likely find it tough to score against the Xolos who have given up just 3 goals in four home games.
Tijuana, meanwhile, has suffered from inconsistency. After overcoming a 2-1 deficit to beat Cruz Azul in their Matchday 7 game at Estadio Caliente, the Xolos failed to hold a 2-1 halftime lead at Necaxa and went home with a 3-2 loss.
This game figures to be a real contrast in styles. Tijuana loves to play a vertical game at home, aggressively pressing their opponent and racing into counter-attacks. The Tigres, meanwhile, prefer to be patient, with a heavy emphasis on possession and controlled build-up on offense. The Tigres know they have to start coming out of games with a “W” if they want to nab a top seed in the playoffs. The Xolos – currently in 12th place – can’t afford to drop points at home.