Tigres, Pachuca headline Liga MX's Pre-Apertura Power Rankings
Liga MX is about to start another exhilarating season, where ten clubs have Mexican managers, while the other eight are led by foreigners. This season will be a good one to analyze young, new Mexican coaches like Lobos BUAP's Rafael Puente Jr. and Puebla's Rafael "Chiquis" Garcia. Queretaro's Jaime Lozano, who took over for Victor Manuel Vucetich in Week 5 of last season, has had an entire preseason to prepare the team, so his stamp will be clearer this time around.
Here are Liga MX's Pre-Apertura Power Rankings:
In Carson, California, Chile's Eduardo Vargas gave a worthwhile performance, which included a goal that helped Tigres beat Chivas in the Campeon de Campeones match. With the addition of Ecuadorian striker, Enner Valencia, Tigres now have an insatiable attack with Valencia, Vargas and Andre-Pierre Gignac. However, they will need to find the adequate replacement to fill in the void left by Guido Pizarro.
One of Los Tuzos' most important youth products, Hirving "Chucky" Lozano, will be missed. But there's no time for lament, and Pachuca have brought in players of the caliber of Edson Puch and Keisuke Honda, who will keep Pachuca as one of the most explosive teams in Liga MX.
Los Rayados brought in Aviles Hurtado and Jorge Benitez to boost their attack. Monterrey's success will be determined by how great the Colombian tandem of Dorlan Pabon and Hurtado can possibly turn out to be.
The defending champions, Chivas, will be put to the test early on in the season without striker Alan Pulido, who will be out for most of the regular season with a broken arm. Key players like Orbelin Pineda and Rodolfo Pizarro are still with Mexico's Gold Cup team, which means that manager Matias Almeyda might be giving significant playing time to young, exciting, academy prospects out of the gate.
Led by Mexican youngsters Gael Sandoval, Ulises Rivas, Gerardo Arteaga and Jorge Sanchez, Los Guerreros will try to improve last season's point total by upping their wins, and settling for less draws.
Toluca held onto the same block of players that got them to last season's semifinals; their main addition was Argentine defender, Santiago Garcia, who recently played at Bundesliga outfit Werder Bremen. In the recent Liguilla, Rubens Sambueza was the team's most dangerous player, but he really didn't get much support from his teammates.
There should be expectancy around Xolos and their new manager, Eduardo "Chacho" Coudet. The club is restarting again, but the hope is that it can continue being competitive. New striker Gustavo Bou will be one of the players to follow at the start of the season.
Miguel "Piojo" Herrera is back, but the team did very little to replenish its attack. Guido Rodriguez heads into the Apertura as the club's biggest pick-up, and without a doubt, it will be important to have Paraguayan Cecilio Dominguez fit as soon as possible. Dominguez and 17-year-old Diego Lainez could turn into Las Aguilas' best attacking options.
Milton Caraglio, who last season played with Tijuana, is Atlas' new bet in the striker position. Caraglio is characterized for his good aerial game, and with full-backs who are sharp with their crosses like Luis Reyes and Jose Maduena, this bet might work out for Los Rojinegros.
Keeping Raul Ruidiaz, who was named Liga MX's best player at its recent awards ceremony, gives a huge boost to Morelia's ambitions on having back-to-back playoff appearances. With that being said, seeing Monarcas reach the playoffs will be a huge surprise, as was last season.
Young manager Jaime Lozano will need to find the right XI immediately in order to make Queretaro into a competitive side. Since the 2015 Clausura when Los Gallos surprisingly reached the final, the team has experienced a lot of disorder, mainly because it has been unable to find the right, competitive XI.
For Pumas fans, it must be hard to get excited over newcomers like Mauro Formica or Joffre Guerron, but having Abraham Gonzalez and Nicolas Castillo fully fit must raise their hopes. This will be the third season with Francisco Palencia as head coach, and the team should show improvements, especially in the defense.
In Cruz Azul, there's complete support of Paco Jemez's coaching ways, but if there's no positive results after the first six weeks, all sirens will go off.
Even though La Fiera hasn't had a busy offseason, Javier Torrente's team still includes the main actors that led Leon to a semifinal finish in the 2016 Apertura. With a healthy Alexander Mejia, Leon will be a tough side to beat.
Edson Puch's departure cuts Necaxa's offensive threat. Puch became the club's main attacker in such a short time, and now with new manager Ignacio Ambriz, adjusting to life without the Chilean attacker will be the manager's first objective to complete.
Head coach Juan Antonio Luna had all summer to prepare the squad. This time around, Luna doesn't come in in the middle of the season to save the team from chaos and can focus on leading his time from the jump.
Although this will be Lobos BUAP's first season in the Mexico's firs division, they'll start ahead of their local archrivals, Puebla, because they had a more successful offseason. Lobos' summer pick-ups offer more optimism than those of established Puebla.
After many years as Ricardo La Volpe's assistant, Rafael "Chiquis" Garcia will make his managerial debut in the first division. All those days learning from La Volpe will be put to the test with a team with a mixture of veterans and unknown foreigners.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.