Game: Monterrey vs Tijuana Xolos
When: Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018
Where: Estadio BBVA Bancomer, Monterrey, Mexico
Time: 5:00 P.M. PST
TV: Univision Deportes
Club Tijuana will have its biggest challenge of this young Clausura 2018 season this Saturday.
The Xolos will face the runners-up of the Apertura 2017 campaign and the current Copa MX champions, Monterrey, away from home at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer. The Aztec Canines are coming off a slim 1-0 win against Necaxa at the Estadio Caliente and are still undefeated to start off this new tournament. The Xoloitzcuintles have yet to concede a goal as the team had a scoreless draw against Cruz Azul to start off the year.
Diego Cocca is the polar opposite of Eduardo Coudet with a very ordered, pragmatic style of play in place. This has worked very well for Club Tijuana early on as the defense led by club captain Pablo Aguilar has been in outstanding form. The attack has struggled at times to consistently generate scoring opportunities, specifically, Juan Iturbe has been very disappointing. It has been reported that Gustavo Bou could potentially miss this game, which would severely tarnish the Xolos’ chances of coming away with any points from the game. Without Bou, Miler Bolanos is likely to take his place in the starting XI, but it still unclear as to what formation the Argentine manager will use. Cocca was more aggressive against Necaxa with a 4-3-3 formation, but will likely be more conservative in this match against a potent Monterrey side. A 4-4-2 is more likely, with Bolanos and Juan Martin Lucero as the strike partnership if Gustavo Bou misses this game. The Xolos will have a very tough task and it would not be surprising to see the border city side drop some points this Saturday.
Monterrey was arguably the best team from the Apertura 2017 regular season, falling to Tigres UANL in the final of the competition.
Former Xolos’ forward Aviles Hurtado played a big role in that league-final defeat, missing a penalty that would have tied the game. Los Rayados have started this Clausura 2018 season the same way as Los Xolos, with four points from two games. Monterrey’s first game was a 1-1 draw with Monarcas Morelia at home. Morelia was very lucky to come away with the point with a penalty in the dying moments of the match. La Pandilla’s Week 2 clash was a dominant 2-0 win over Veracruz. The team did struggle at times to find spaces, but was the better team in the game.
Former Xolos’ manager Antonio Mohamed leads the charge at Monterrey and has one of the most powerful attacks in the league. Just Aviles Hurtado and Rogelio Funes Mori combined for 26 goals in the Apertura 2017 Regular season and playoffs. New signing Jonathan Urretaviscaya is also now available to play and should add some flair and creativity to this already spectacular offense. Rayados will also count with the home-field advantage, which can prove to be a deciding factor in the game. Monterrey was undefeated at home in the Apertura 2017 regular season and should prove to be a force at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer once again.
Players to Watch
Lajud has been one of Club Tijuana’s best player so far as the team has yet to concede in two games this season. As mentioned before, Monterrey has a monstrous offense and it will surely test the 24-year-old goalkeeper. The Mexico City native has had some controversial errors in the past that almost have cost him his starting job, but is off to an amazing start in this tournament. Lajud is rumored to have a call-up to the Mexico national team soon because of his tremendous form, and this will be a huge test for him.
Aviles Hurtado has not played this season as an injury has impeded the Colombian from continuing with his fine form. The 30-year-old was the joint-top goalscorer in the Apertura 2017 regular season with 11 goals, and has proven to be one of the most talented and exciting players in Mexico’s top division. Hurtado scored two of his 11 goals against the Xolos at the Estadio Caliente last season as he was sent off with cheers from the home crowd in that match. The Colombian forward will be hungry for a fast start to the Clausura 2018 coming off his injury at the despair of his former team.
The Xolos are off to a great start under new manager Diego Cocca, but it is extremely difficult to see a favorable result from this match. Monterrey has proven to be one of the best teams in Mexico in Antonio Mohamed’s tenure with the club and that should continue this season. This should especially be true at home and the prediction for this match is a slim 1-0 win for the current Copa MX champions. Club Tijuana has been great defensively and that should still show in this game, making the game a hard-fought encounter that ends in the Xolos’ first defeat under Diego Cocca.