Tigres season preview: Can Liga MX champion go back-to-back with star-studded roster?

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Tigres have their eyes set not only on defending their Liga MX crown but also winning the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time

After a hard-fought title win over rival Monterrey in the first ever final between the two Nuevo Leon rivals, it should be clear that Tigres fans love having bragging rights over their neighbors. Rayados fans will be in for a season full of jokes and barbs after Tigres lifted the trophy in the Estadio BBVA Bancomer, marking their fifth title win.

There's one area where Monterrey can strike back. While in past years it has been treated like a throwaway competition, Monterrey has three CONCACAF Champions League crowns. The club across town has none. 

Twice manager Tuca Ferretti has guided his team to the final of the tournament and twice his side has fallen short of regional supremacy and a ticket to the Club World Cup. Representing CONCACAF at that tournament, should it continue in its current format, would be big for Tigres as they seek to prove they belong at the upper echelon not only in Mexico and the Americas but worldwide with the club's spending power and style of play under Ferretti.

So, don't be surprised that Tigres aren't satisfied simply with beating Monterrey for the league. This spring, they'll be out to defend that trophy and hoping to add another to the trophy case - one that never has been there before.


Winter moves


adios damian alvarez tigres

For a team that has been the talk of the transfer market for several tournaments running, it was a stunningly quiet offseason for Tigres. There's not all that much for the champion to do, though. The club already has one of the top rosters in the region and is coming off a Liga MX title.

The most notable move was Damian Alvarez's decision to retire after seven season with Tigres. The 38-year-old winger played more than 200 matches for the club. Tigres captain Juninho, another faithful veteran, re-signed with Los Felinos.  

Luis Quinones has gone on loan to Toluca while Julian Quinones remains with Lobos BUAP.


What to watch for


Eduardo Vargas Tigres

One of the biggest questions for me is whether Tigres can pick up right where they left off. This is a team that relies on veteran players including a 35-year-old center back. It's also a team that didn't get much rest after playing into early December and returning quickly to training. Luckily for Ferretti, the fixtures fall kindly. A trip to Puebla on Friday doesn't look too daunting and his team then heads to the comforts of El Volcan where it has been nearly impossible to beat.

Ferretti also still has one of the deepest teams in the league, even without reinforcing during the offseason. Players who would be starting at other teams don't get minutes with Tigres. The retiring Damian Alvarez, midfielders Jose Torres and Lucas Zelarayan, French defender Timothee Kolodziejczak and even winger Jurgen Damm often have found themselves rooted to the bench. They may be in the rotation more often this tournament with Tigres hoping to win the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time, with this tournament maybe the first time in a long time Tigres finds the team's depth tested.


Clausura outlook


 Tigres

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Why would Tigres not be able to defend the crown? The attack is still ferocious, the defense is still stern and the midfield players link the two well. Nahuel Guzman occasionally ventures too far from his goal to play a pass but generally suits the style and is one of the better goalkeepers in the league. Ferretti is still the coach. Even an injury seems unlikely to derail Tigres thanks to the squad depth.

Other teams around them are getting better while the champions are standing pat. That much is true.

Overall, though, this is a team that will once again be in the mix when the Liguilla rolls around.

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