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Chivas Guadalajara will struggle to retain Liga MX title this Apertura

Chivas Guadalajara will struggle to retain Liga MX title this Apertura
From ESPN - July 17, 2017

Winning back-to-back titles in Mexican soccer is notoriously difficult. The playoff system, with eight of the 18 teams qualifying to the postseason, means there is an element of peaking at the right time. It is rare that a club dominates the league from start to finish.

In fact, if Mexico had a European-style league format, Club Tijuana would have won the 2016-17 campaign by nine points, but thatXolos finished top of the regular season of both the Apertura 2016 and Clausura 2017 will go down as just an interesting footnote.

The big story was Chivas, the all-Mexican side that has been resurrected from relegation contender to Liga MX champion under Argentine coach Matias Almeyda, fueled by some heavy and consistent investment in the playing staff by owner Jorge Vergara.

The crescendo to the 2017 Clausura title, the performance of the all-Mexican team in the final against Tigres' expensively assembled international cast and the atmosphere around Guadalajara as the Rebano Sagrado edged closer to the title, was special.

But following it up is going to be difficult. Not much has gone to plan in the offseason ahead of the 2017 Apertura.

The best news for Chivas fans is that Almeyda is still at the club. The former River Plate manager has established a firm playing identity at the club, is keeping his eye on the development of the youngsters and is very clearly a coach who will be receiving increasingly tempting offers from Europe.

Almeyda has not been given any new signings for the new season, flying in the face of the theory that championship-winning squads should continue to build -- to foster internal competition, as well as keep existing players on their toes. Squad players such as Miguel Ponce and Nestor Calderon -- key in the Copa MX victory and in providing depth in case of injury -- have also left, with Ponce now at Necaxa and Calderon at Pumas.

Preseason results are not always indicative of how a side is coming into a season, but Chivas has lost three and drawn one of its matches so far.

Then there is the loss of Alan Pulido. The striker will be out until November with a broken arm, which he picked up in the pre-Gold Cup friendly against Paraguay on July 1. Pulido was a huge signing for Chivas last summer, and while he took time to adapt in the 2016 Apertura season, he showed his quality in the Clausura playoffs, with his physicality and work rate difficult to replace. He provides a focal point for a team that usually plays with only one striker.

Pulido is not the only absentee, however.

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