Game: Tijuana Xolos vs Cruz Azul
Where: Estadio Caliente
When: Friday, July 21, 2017
Time: 7:00 PM Pacific
TV: Univision Deportes
It is time for another Liga MX tournament. The unpredictability, passion, and excitement of Mexico’s top soccer league is back. The Tijuana Xolos will kick off the Apertura 2017 tournament at home and will have exclusive guests at the Estadio Caliente as the Xolos will host one of the “Big Four”, Cruz Azul. The clash should be one of the most exciting games of this inaugural week in the Liga MX as both teams are expected to make the playoffs and fight for the title this season. The Xolos played Cruz Azul in week 4 of the last tournament at the Estadio Caliente and defeated the Mexico City club 1-0. This game will be very difficult to kick off the new tournament, but should prove to be a very exciting encounter for the fans.
The Xoloitzcuintles are in a rebuilding phase after the pillars of the club left in the off-season. Former manager, Miguel Herrera, left to Club America and took defensive midfielder, Guido Rodriguez, with him. Star forward, Aviles Hurtado, who scored eight goals in the Clausura 2017 left to Monterrey and Milton Caraglio also left to Atlas. New manager, Eduardo Coudet, has brought in his players to replace these key voids within the team this off-season and will look to keep the competitive nature of Club Tijuana in this tournament. The Aztec Canines, of course, finished in first place in back-to-back tournaments and will look to be one of the top teams in this upcoming season. There will be some key absences for this game as Paul Arriola and Joe Corona are currently representing the United States in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament. “El Chacho” Coudet has already announced his starting 11 for the game in a mid-week press conference and there were a few surprises in the lineup.
The Argentine skipper has decided to go with a 4-4-2 formation but with a deep defensive midfielder and a creative attacking midfielder playing in behind the strikers. The defense is mostly made up of household names with Gibran Lajud in net and Damian Perez, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Emmanuel Aguilera, and Matias Aguirregaray making up the back four. The new name in the back line is Aguirregaray, who was a key signing for the Xolos coming over from the Argentinian league. The defensive midfielder is set to be the Damian Musto, who was brought in to replace Guido Rodriguez while Ignacio Malcorra and another new player, Mauricio Cuero, are set to play out on the wings. The attacking creative midfielder is one of the most interesting names in the lineup as Chula Vista native, Alejandro Guido, will get a chance to start after an impressive preseason performance.
Finally, the strike force will be made up of Henry Martin and Juan Martin Lucero, which is also intriguing as one of the biggest off-season signings, Gustavo Bou, will not feature in the starting 11 for Friday night. It will be very interesting to see what players feature on the bench and whether Bou gets a chance to clock in his first few minutes in the Liga MX. This game will be a challenging task to kick off the Apertura 2017 season for the border city side, but it is a game that the Xolos can win, especially at home.
The Mexico City team had a very disappointing Clausura 2017 tournament, finishing in 12th, missing out on the playoffs. Despite the lackluster performance, the front office has decided to keep the same manager from the Clausura 2017, Paco Jemez. The Spanish manager suffered some heartbreaking defeats last season, but did implement an enticing possession-based and passing style of play with La Maquina. Cruz Azul had a busy off-season, really solidifying the attack with players like the Chilean striker, Felipe Mora, and the Spanish winger, Edgar Mendez. The defense, which was shaky at times during the last tournament, was not upgraded and that could be a huge downfall heading into the new tournament. The Mexico City team will play an attractive style of soccer, but it is unclear if it will be effective against this Xolos team, as it did not prove to be effective last season. It has been three years since Cruz Azul has made the playoffs and this will be a tremendous test against a very tough opponent to see where the team is at going into this new tournament.
Players to Watch
The Chula Vista native is coming off an injury that kept him out of Liga MX play in the Clausura 2017 competition. Alejandro Guido did play with the under-20 squad last season in his recovery process, where he scored three goals in seven games. The 23-year-old earned Eduardo Coudet’s trust in the preseason games as he was stellar in them, including a game against FC Juarez where he scored two goals. The former Mater-Dei student is set for a breakout tournament if he can get a good first impression here.
All eyes will be on the 30-year-old midfielder as he has huge shoes to fill, coming in as Guido Rodriguez’s replacement in the heart of the Xolos’ midfield. Depending on how the Argentine adapts to the Liga MX could make or break the Aztec Canines in this season. That defensive midfield role is one of the more important positions on the pitch and a lot is expected from the former Rosario Central man.
The Ecuadorian winger was easily one of Cruz Azul’s most impressive players in the Liga MX Clausura 2017, scoring five goals in 16 games. The offense could heavily depend on the 29-year-old this season with no proven attacking option besides him on the pitch. It is unclear how Felipe Mora or Edgar Mendez will adapt to the Liga MX, while it is unclear if Martin Rodriguez will be healthy for this match, having picked up an injury in a preseason game. Mena will be a tricky man to defend for the Xolos’ back line with his rapid speed and technical ability and it will be interesting to see how he does in this first game.
This game is set to be one of the most exciting of this first week of Liga MX play as is any game at the Estadio Caliente. The atmosphere should be a spectacle to see with the fans anxious for the league to start up again. Both teams have very rigid sides that have proven to be strenuous to break down and get a goal out of. Club Tijuana, especially at home, should be an arduous task for any opponent but it is unclear if the fresh signings will adapt to the team and help strengthen the squad. Cruz Azul should be able to turn things around in this tournament and this game can prove to be a huge stepping stone towards playoff soccer for the Mexico City team. The Xolos seem to have the advantage in the game, especially with the home-field advantage and I think that will be the difference in the game to propel Club Tijuana to a 1-0 victory, with Juan Martin Lucero emerging as the lone goal scorer.