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Club America and Chivas face tough openers as Liga MX Clausura begins

Matias Almeyda and Chivas have been handed a rough opener against Toluca to start the Clausura.

Less than four weeks after Tigres' 2017 Apertura finals win against Monterrey, Liga MX is back!

Toluca a tough first test for Chivas

The first round of matches isn't going to decide the fate of any Liga MX team's season, but for Toluca and Chivas, who clash on Sunday, it seems especially important to start off on the right foot.

Toluca ended the 2017 Apertura with a disappointing quarterfinal exit against Morelia. Fans weren't happy, but coach Hernan Cristante has been given more time at a club starved of a league title since 2010. An early win over Chivas would stave off the doubters early doors.

The game represents a really tricky start for Matias Almeyda's Chivas. Once again Toluca's side will be made up largely of South Americans and the average age of the starting XI will be floating north of 30 years. The experience combined with the altitude of Mexico's highest first division stadium -- Estadio Nemesio Diez -- makes it one of the most difficult season openers Chivas could possibly have been given.

Almeyda's side finished 13th last season, but have added Gael Sandoval and Ronaldo Cisneros from Santos Laguna to the squad for the Clausura. The team has remained largely the same, except for Oswaldo Alanis -- who Almeyda confirmed will not play for the club again due to his contract dispute -- and holding midfielder Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez

Expect Chivas to take the game to Toluca, even away from home, but Los Diablos Rojos will use all their experience to sap the life out of Guadalajara and try to punish late on. Can Chivas shake off their 2017 Apertura slump? Will Toluca be more exciting than it was last season? We'll get some early answers on Sunday. -- Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup)

America await reinforcements ahead of Queretaro

As America awaits new players in the transfer window, they'll rely on veteran Oribe Peralta in attack.

In the coming days, America should be confirming its new reinforcements. Among the possible signings, the names that have grabbed most of the attention have been Jeremy Menez, Andres Ibarguen and Luuk de Jong. And if Las Aguilas are able to bring in these three players, there will be a lot of reason for excitement in the camp. However, the timeliness of the impact these new players will provide remains to be seen because there will certainly be an adaptation period, which will require manager Miguel Herrera to be patient.

The recent Liguilla run left several players affected negatively. One of those affected was Darwin Quintero, whose 2017 Apertura regular season wasn't terrible, but his poor display in the playoffs was hard to bear. Striker Silvio Romero wasn't key toward the end of last season, nor was playmaker Cecilio Dominguez.

But until these deals are done it's still uncertain to figure out if all, or any, of them will leave the club. However, if Menez, Ibarguen and De Jong do arrive, it would certainly mean that Romero, Quintero and Dominguez would slip down "Piojo's" list and perhaps out of the reckoning altogether.

For America, Sunday's game against Queretaro, which will be played in front of a sold out Estadio Corregidora, is a tough test to open the season because the team is still building. Additionally, players like Edson Alvarez and Guido Rodriguez will be out due to suspension. It's likely that newcomers Emanuel Aguilera, Joe Corona and Henry Martin will all be in the starting XI. Fortunately, the attacking duo of Oribe Peralta and Martin has looked sharp in the preseason, while midfielder Mateus Uribe looks ready to become one of the team's main leaders.

Queretaro is starting off fresh this season, with Luis Fernando Tena as manager, and had a decent offseason which included key additions like Miguel Samudio, Diego Novaretti and Edson Puch. Time will tell, though, if Los Gallos have what it takes to be a protagonist in the Clausura. -- Nayib Moran (@nayibmoran)

Cruz Azul face Tijuana to start Caixinha era

The Pedro Caixinha era has officially started at Cruz Azul. The pairing of the Portuguese manager, fresh off a tough stint at Rangers, and a team that hasn't won a league title in 20 years seems a match made in heaven. Caixinha is a no-nonsense disciplinarian who got the best out of a middling roster in his previous Liga MX experience, leading Santos Laguna to the title in 2015.

There's genuine excitement around the project, especially after outgoing manager Paco Jemez put the team back on an upward trajectory after seasons of heartbreak and missing the playoffs. New signings Walter Montoya and Jose Maduena fill specific needs for the team, and the still unconfirmed signing of former Leon and Chivas midfielder Carlos Pena would strengthen an already formidable starting XI.

On the other side, Tijuana is also starting over with a former Santos Laguna manager Diego Cocca. Xolos still boasts one of Mexico's most impressive offensive units, with Gustavo Bou, Miller Bolanos, Juan Iturbe, Ignacio Malcorra and Juan Lucero holding massive potential up front.

Despite a three-for-one deal with Club America in last December's draft, Tijuana has likely strengthened its defensive unit by reacquiring Paraguay international Pablo Aguilar. In all, this game is a dark horse candidate for Week 1's most intriguing matchup. -- Eric Gomez (@EricGomez86)


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