Chivas ease into Apertura schedule
GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Chivas couldn't ask for a much easier game, at least on paper, than Sunday's home match against Jaguares de Chiapas to kick off an Apertura 2014 campaign in which the immediate goal is a positive start to alleviate fears of relegation.
Guadalajara go into the game as favorites and aiming to capitalize on a wave of cautious optimism around town following offseason signings by the club.
Here are five keys to the game:
Support for De Nigris
Star striker Aldo de Nigris has fought more than his share of losing battles since joining the club in the summer of 2013. Often a lone striker and without his old Monterrey partner-in-crime Humberto Suazo to feed off him, De Nigris has been left isolated.
Against Chiapas in new coach Carlos Bustos' 4-3-3 system, it is vital wingers Omar Bravo and Angel Reyna get closer to De Nigris to be able to feed off him when the ball is played in and he has his back to goal. From midfield, too, Fernando Arce and David Toledo will be asked to drive forward to give the 30-year-old De Nigris options.
Reyna's creative spark
Chivas' stale side in recent seasons has been crying out for a bit of flair and invention and newcomer Angel Reyna possesses that in bucket-loads.
His presence should mean more chances created and that Chivas have a little X factor about them this Apertura, rather than being a side that was, in all honesty, a little dull.
The introduction of experienced duo Arce and Toledo -- a precise passer of the ball -- in midfield will mean Chivas retain possession better and will be more patient in picking the right passes forward. That should lead to more chances.
At least, that's the theory. We'll find out how it is all clicking on Sunday.
Get the crowd onside
An uninspiring team out on the pitch has usually been matched at Chivas' Estadio Omnilife with a dull atmosphere and lots of empty red seats in the modern stadium.
Now with a team bristling with experienced new players and some bigger names like Reyna, Arce and Carlos Salcido, there should be a decent turnout against Chiapas on Sunday.
Chivas will hope the new season will also mean a new and improved relationship with fans in Guadalajara, but it'll largely depend on getting the product right on the pitch.
Control Chiapas' powerful attack
Chiapas may not be one of the bigger clubs in Liga MX and their squad might once again have been overhauled, but they won't be a pushover on Sunday.
The attacking lineup of Christian Bermudez, Andres Andrade, Franco Arizala and Matias Vuoso promises much and Chivas will have to be as wary about the physicality of the last three as the cunning of "Hobbit" Bermudez.
New players settling in
Playing for Chivas isn't like playing for other clubs in Mexico. There's more pressure and a sense that you have to tick certain boxes to please the fans. De Nigris has that aura about him, but players like Sergio "Cherokee" Perez didn't and even local youth product Marco Fabian eventually irritated fans with his inconsistency.
The new batch of signings Arce, Toledo, Reyna, Sergio Napoles and Alberto "Guamerucito" Garcia -- as well as returnees Luis Michel and Salcido -- will get their chance to impress and show they belong. It's important they make a good first impression.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.