Tigres are roaring back into form after disappointing 2018 Clausura
When it comes to finding success in recent Liga MX years, Tigres clearly stand out. Since the 2015 Apertura, manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti & Co. have won three league titles and looking back even further, Tigres haven't missed the playoffs since the 2014 Clausura. The Monterrey-based squad has been nothing short of dominant and despite the broad unpredictability of the Mexican first division, Tigres and Ferretti continue to find a way to thrive.
With 25 points this season, Tigres are tantalizingly close to qualifying for the playoffs for an eighth consecutive tournament. There's a dynasty being built but back in February, things didn't appear as rosy as they do now.
Following an unexpected 0-0 draw with relegation-threatened Lobos BUAP on Feb. 13th, Tigres found themselves 11th in the league table. After clinching a Liga MX championship in December, there was suddenly reason to worry about the squad that kicked off its season with only two wins in the first eight games.
Ferretti slumped to questionable losses, star striker Andre-Pierre Gignac looked woefully short of form and the talented Tigres roster looked lethargic. Mix in some injuries and you had a Liga MX side that appeared as a shadow of its former championship self.
"My players are very aware [of our problems]," mentioned Ferretti in mid-February after the draw with Lobos BUAP. "There is a very broad range of things to improve."
"A coach always wants to have a full roster to select an XI and also those on the bench to support the team," he later added, making note of his squad's injury issues.
Tigres were struggling but if there's one thing that even casual Mexican soccer fans know about the title-holders, it's the fact that you can never count them out. Thanks to the return of key figures like Javier Aquino and Jorge Torres Nilo, as well as a resurgence in scoring for Gignac, Tigres quickly started to turn their fortunes around.
Following the draw with Lobos BUAP, the 2017 Apertura champions have collected five wins in their last six matches. In their latest victory, a 4-1 defeat over Leon, other noteworthy figures like Enner Valencia, Rafael Carioca and Ismael Sosa have helped Tigres flex their muscle at a crucial point in the season.
Once on the path to collapse, Tigres have now skyrocketed up the league table and currently sit in third place. Expectations are finally being met and with a game against top side Toluca this Sunday, Ferretti will have an invaluable opportunity to highlight why his roster is the most talented and powerful in the region.
There's no doubt that the upcoming battle vs. Toluca will be a playoff preview for Tigres. Los Diablos Rojos are the form team in Liga MX at the moment and with a current unbeaten streak at home, they'll likely make things very difficult for Ferretti's men. That said, on paper, there is no club with more attacking firepower than Tigres. Regardless of their problems over the first half of the season, the squad will be charging into this weekend's clash with an immense amount of confidence after the one-sided win over Leon.
Keeping in mind that Tigres recently stumbled out of another international competition without a trophy in hand, Ferretti should also be eager to keep his detractors silent. Despite his many successes in Mexico, Liga MX fans regularly criticize the club for its inability to earn championships on the continent. Following their embarrassing exit at the quarterfinal stage of the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League, the constant argument of whether Tigres are a true Liga MX giant has once again surrounded the organization.
Due to this, the squad and its fans have a chip on their shoulder. Tigres crave more respect and although they can no longer fight for a CCL title this year, there's still a major opportunity to shine this season. A victory over first-place Toluca won't immediately make them a league giant but at the very least, it would likely be enough to steal top spot in the league table.
Once there, Tigres can maintain their path of earning that respect while building an impressive dynasty.
Cesar Hernandez covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @cesarhfutbol.