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Predictions don’t get a lot easier than this. The two teams have very different objectives heading into the Clausura season. Club America were top of the Apertura table with 38 points and expected to lift the title, but got knocked out by Toluca in the semifinals over two tight semi final legs. Queretaro were bottom of the Apertura table with just one win.
The odds are stacked strongly against Queretaro in this game, but they have got a decent head-to-head record with seven wins in 24 meetings. Club America have won nine of the games, with eight games ending in a draw.
Queretaro gave Club America a real scare when the two sides met back in August, but Club America eventually came out as the victors with a 1-0 victory, thanks to a goal from Emlio Lara. Club America had 58% of the possession, but that didn’t stop Queretaro from taking a lot of shots.
Queretaro took 13 shots in the game, with two meeting the target without actually helping them get on the scoresheet. Club America took 15 shots on the day, with four shots finding the target. Overall, Club America were worthy winners on the day, but Queretaro made them work hard for the points. Club America should not expect a cakewalk heading into this tie.
No Liga MX team has won the title more often than Club America. They topped the league last season in terms of points, goals scored, and goal difference. Despite all that, Toluca got the better of them when it mattered most.
The manner of the loss was also concerning. Club America had a lot of possession in both legs and took lots of shots, but it didn’t matter. They simply couldn’t find the back of the net often enough. The fans will also get a bit impatient now.
Their last title came in the 2018 Clausura season. As far as league performances are concerned, they’ve been as good as anyone in the last few years. They just tend to freeze during the knockout stages far too often.
Regardless, the loss to Toluca will be a learning experience. They now have to figure out a way to win games without letting the game get that tight. If they can manage that, there’s no reason why they can’t make it a 14th Liga MX title.
Club America certainly don’t have goalscoring issues. They scored 38 in the league last season, which was joint-highest with Santos Laguna. They also have a solid defense to boot – they only conceded 17 goals last season. All of this is perfect for the league, but they need something different in the knockouts.
They don’t have a player who can really overwhelm teams on his own. Diego Valdes got five goals and three assists last term. Alejandro Zendejas scored four goals, and Henry Martin chipped in with three goals and two assists. It’s all well and good to have a team that shares the goals, but when the system doesn’t work for a one-off game, there’s no plan B, and the current players don’t seem to have the capacity to up their game in the big moments.
Club America have made one big change. Guillermo Ochoa has left the club on a free transfer. Luis Malagon will be replacing him in goal. Israel Reyes has also come in at center-back. Nicolas Benedetti, Renato Ibarra, and Jordan Silva have left the club.
Fernando Ortiz will have to make do with most of the options from the Apertura season. This is still a strong squad, but they'll miss Ochoa’s leadership.
The last three seasons haven’t been great for Queretaro, but the recent Apertura season was a new low. They managed just one win the whole season. They can only move upwards and have to approach the season with a positive outlook - as hard as that might seem at the moment.
Playing Club America in their very first game of the Clausura season isn’t ideal, but a positive performance could go a long way. It could help them build some confidence for the rest of the season.
They have to stay in the game for as long as possible and be clinical when they get their chances. Their last game against Club America is a good example of the approach they should adopt. Club America might also ease off a little as this is the first game of the new season.
The goals-against column did not look good for Queretaro last season. They conceded 35 goals in 17 games, which is more than two goals per game. Manager Mauro Gerk has to solve this before getting into the other areas of the field.
He has to make the team hard to beat before looking to play an expansive brand of football. He also needs to improve their home form. This is imperative for any struggling side. If the team can get the fans back on their side, their fortunes could improve drastically. They scored 18 goals in the Apertura season, which isn’t the worst base to work out of. There were a few sides in the league who scored fewer goals than that.
Angel Sepulveda was also a shining light. He scored five goals last time out, which is extremely impressive for a struggling side. He didn’t get a lot of help last time out, with no one else in the side managing more than one goal in the Apertura season.
Queretaro have been busy in the winter transfer window. Gil Alcala and Jose Zuniga have joined the side for undisclosed fees. Jonatan Torres, Miguel Barbieri, and Manuel Duarte have joined the side on loans.
Ariel Nahuelpan has left the club on a free, while Maximiliano Perg and Mario Osuna have left the club for undisclosed fees. Ronaldo Gonzalez and Hugo Magallanes have been sent out on loans as well.
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Varun is a web journalist who has been writing on sports for 13 years. He took a shine for the MLS during the 2021 season and has been following it and writing about it since, alongside his work involving the English Premier League, La Liga, and the Serie A. He is deeply interested in soccer analytics and strategy and has aspirations to move into coaching at some point. Email: [email protected]More info on Varun Shetty
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