Liga MX: Champs Monterrey, northern mates off to slow start

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Monterrey, Santos and Tigres

Miguel Layún of laments a wasted opportunity during Monterrey’s 1-1 draw at Necaxa on Wednesday which has the Rayados stuck in last place with a 0-2-2 record. (Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images)

The champion Rayados find themselves in last place while fellow northern powerhouses Santos and Tigres struggle to find their form.

As we approach the quarter pole of the Clausura 2020, the Liga MX standings appears to be flipped on its head.

Defending champion Monterrey is in last place after Morelia claimed its first win of the season in Thursday’s Matchday 5 kick-off match at Atlas. The other regiomontano powerhouse – the Tigres – are in 13th place with only two goals kin four games, and last season’s top playoff seed Santos find themselves in 15th spot.

These three teams have combined to win 12 of the past 24 Liga MX titles, but the Clausura could prove to be difficult one for fans up north.

There is still a long, long way to go, however, so it is too early to discount a return to championship form. Even so, Monterrey, Santos and the Tigres each face particular challenges just to reach the playoffs, not the least of which is the improvements made by several teams currently above them in the standings.

Monterrey struggled through a difficult Apertura 2019 such that coach Diego Alonso was fired with seven games remaining. Antonio Mohamed took over and guided the Rayados down the stretch, rediscovering their form in the playoffs and claiming the title with a tense penalty shoot-out victory over América on Dec. 29.

In the middle of the playoffs, La Pandilla also spent two weeks in Qatar taking part in the FIFA Club World Cup, taking eventual champion Liverpool to the limit before losing in the semifinals. The Rayados brought home the third-place trophy then opened the Finals against América on Dec. 26.

With this heavy load in December, it is no surprise that Monterrey would get off to a slow start and that player fatigue would be a concern. The Rayados had little time to recover from the long season before the Clausura kicked off. On Wednesday, left back Leonel Vangioni, right winger Dorlan Pabón and defender César Montes were absent from the line-up as the Rayados settled for a 1-1 draw at Necaxa.

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