Tigres CONCACAF Champions League Preview

QF LEG 1 - Feb 24: Tigres vs Real Salt Lake

QF LEG 2 - Mar 2: Real Salt Lake vs Tigres

Tigres are the current champions of Liga MX, after winning a thrilling Liguilla final against Pumas UNAM in December. In the second leg of the final, Pumas overturned a 3-0 deficit from the first leg to send the match into extra time. Both sides scored in the extra 30 minutes, sending the match to penalties, where Tigres won 4-2.

Also in 2015, Tigres became just the third Mexican side to reach the final of CONMEBOL’s version of the Champions League, the Copa Libertadores (Mexican sides have been invited to the tournament since 1998). Like the other two, Tigres also fell at the final hurdle at the hands of Argentine powerhouse River Plate.

Since Tuca Ferretti’s third arrival to Nuevo Leon in 2010 – he previously managed Tigres in the early 2000s and for a short time in 2006 – Tigres have been one of the top sides in Liga MX, regularly qualifying for the playoffs. Tigres are consistently one of the better defensive sides in the league, led by their long-time captain, Brazilian center back Juninho.

The club made headlines when they splashed the cash in the summer of 2015. Javier Aquino, part of Mexico’s 2014 World Cup squad, was purchased from Spanish side Villarreal. Young Mexican winger Jurgen Damm was bought from Pachuca for a reported $8 million. Finally, the club was able to lure French free agent forward Andre-Pierre Gignac, who hit the ground running with 11 goals in his first season and quickly became a fan favorite.

Tigres UANL's name derives from the club’s connection to the public university in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León. Tigres (the Tigers) play at the Estadio Universitario, which is situated on the campus of the university in the greater Monterrey metropolitan area, roughly 120 miles from the Texas-Mexico border.

3 Stars

  • Andre-Pierre Gignac – Gignac, 30, was a regular goal scorer in France before making a surprising move to Mexico. A physical center forward who is always tough on opposing center backs, Gignac can also score goals from just about anywhere on the pitch. APG has also shown an ability to dribble past defenders in his short time in Mexico.
  • Rafael Sobis – The Brazilian Sobis is typically listed as a forward, however he frequently shifts in and out of the role as he has the freedom to be more creative playing off Gignac. Sobis can be seen all over the pitch in most matches --  in the box, drifting deep to pick up the ball, drifting wide for quick interchanges with wide players and even taking set pieces. He led Tigres in assists during the 2015 Apertura.
  • Guido Pizarro – Deep-lying midfielder Pizarro joined Tigres from his home country of Argentina back in 2013. Pizarro keeps the ball moving and provides a constant safe outlet for harried attackers in Tigres’ high-possession attack. He is also comfortable on the ball, capable of kick-starting and joining a counterattack. On the defensive end, Pizarro is also one of the best in Liga MX at anticipating play and breaking up counterattacks.

Tactical Look

Tuca Ferretti’s side normally sets up in a variation of a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1. Tigres look to wear down opponents with conservative, high-possession style, which frequently sees them playing the ball from one side of the pitch to the other until the opportunity arises for one of their wide players to break into space and deliver a ball into the box.

Starting XI

  • GK: Nahuel Guzman
  • RB: Israel Jimenez
  • CB: Juninho
  • CB: Jose Arturo Rivas
  • LB: Jorge Torres Nilo
  • RM: Jurgen Damm
  • CM: Guido Pizarro
  • CM: Jesus Dueñas
  • LM: Javier Aquino
  • F: Rafael Sobis
  • F: Andre-Pierre Gignac

CCL History

Tigres first qualified for the CCL in 2012-2013, where they were dumped out in the quarterfinals by the Seattle Sounders. Tuca Ferretti was criticized for sending what amounted to a B-team to Seattle in the second leg, where they lost 3-2 on aggregate.

2012-13: Quarterfinals

Projection

Tigres are one of the favorites to win the entire tournament, provided Tuca Ferretti plays a side strong enough to do so. On paper, they arguably have the strongest starting XI, and possibly the best player in the tournament in Gignac. Still, they may have the depth to play a lesser squad, with players like recent signing Fernando Fernandez, long-time player Damian Alvarez and American Jose Francisco “Gringo” Torres all in search of playing time.