Tuca won't show it, but pressure is on for Tigres in Liga MX semifinal

Azael Rodriguez
The long-serving manager has job security but will be eager to draw up a game plan that gets his club past its biggest rival in the Liga MX semifinal

Don't tell Tuca Ferretti, but the Tigres manger is under a fair bit of pressure heading into Wednesday's night's Liguilla semifinal match against Monterrey.

No, seriously. Don't tell him. He won't like it.

Rayados topped Tigres just weeks ago to win the Concacaf Champions League, matches fresh in the memory of fans all over the city that houses both teams. But when asked about that series, Ferretti wanted to remind questioning reporters about the series they won, the 2017 Liga MX final, which was decided with a Tigres win in Rayados' Estadio BBVA Bancomer.

"Why don't you tell me how to get a team that beat them for the championship in their house ready? Why don't you ask me that? I'd like it more. We see the glass as half-empty," Ferretti said at Monday's news conference. "Yes, they beat us, but we've also beaten them. I prepared a team for the Concacaf final and we lost. I prepared a team for the final of the Liga MX tournament and we won."

It is not rare to see Ferretti a bit agitated, especially with members of the media. What is rare is for him actually to be in desperate need of a result. Ferretti has a luxury few managers in Latin America have: job security. He's earned it with three title wins in the last four years. Lose this series to his crosstown rival, and Ferretti is unlikely to lose his job.

His contract with Tigres runs three more years, and the club has been savvy enough to keep the 65-year-old around for the long haul in a league in which more than half the clubs have changed managers since January.

"I think he has some credit with the fans thanks to the favorable results he’s had lately - except for in Concacaf," Mariano Trujillo told GoalTrujillo made his debut under Ferretti while at Pumas and will be on the Fox Deportes broadcast of the match aired in the United States.

The former right back said Ferretti knows he needs a win in this series, but outwardly he's going to keep his calm because that's the kind of manager he is. If anything, the manager will take the pressure upon himself to make sure his players stay loose and don't get caught up in the atmosphere surrounding one of the Americas' fiercest rivalry contests.

Ricardo Tuca Ferretti Tigres

"He's a coach I know really well and in big matches he transmits a certain calm, a certain peace, despite the pressure that exists," the former defender said. "He doesn’t stop being demanding, that’s his personality, but even so he tries to make sure the atmosphere is calm so you don’t feel that pressure that does exist."

Tigres fans do not want to see another defeat to Monterrey, especially not with the winner of this series getting a ticket to the Liga MX final. Tigres have had a strong regular season, with their impressive squad depth helping them play almost an entirely different team in league games and CCL matches and not drop off in either competition. While they closed out the season well, going undefeated in their final five matches of the regular season, four of the last five games have been draws after a pair of 1-1 games with Pachuca put them through to the semifinals thanks to a better regular-season finish.

That would suffice against Rayados as well, but no one wants to win like that. Tigres fans want to see their team throttle Monterrey so they can once again sing about winning titles in their house and about being the dominant team in the city.

For that to happen, Ferretti has to draw up a game plan that outfoxes Diego Alonso, the Monterrey coach who got the better of him in two tight CCL games. A fully fit Andre-Pierre Gignac would help as well, which Ferretti apparently didn't have in the CCL. The French forward scored a beautiful goal in the second leg of the CCL final but played only 74 minutes combined in both games. He went the full 90 in the league matches before and after, prompting plenty of criticism from fans and analysts.

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"There is pressure, without a doubt. He knows that well. He’s got a lot of experience and he’s a manager who has lived through the good and bad - even here at Tigres," Trujillo said. "He really knows how to manage the team in games like this from an emotional side. He can show his poker face for these types of games.

"He doesn’t show emotion, he looks relaxed, like it isn’t important, that he’s not worried. But obviously inside, not in front of the fans, it’s different. He’s a coach who is really detailed, who puts a lot of emphasis in how the opponent can hurt you and how you can hurt them."

He'll need to deploy all the weapons he has and use them at the right time to get past a Rayados side that got the better of him just a week ago. If Tigres don't come away with the series win, that outward calm may fade away. It'll be a brave person to question him on it - or remind him of the ever increasing pressure he'd be facing.