Game: Club America vs Tijuana Xolos
When: Saturday, February 24, 2018
Where: Estadio Azteca, Mexico City
Time: 7:00 P.M. PST
TV: Univision Deportes
The Tijuana Xolos will play their ninth game in the Liga MX Clausura 2018 this Saturday as the team takes on Club America at the Estadio Azteca. Club Tijuana is currently in solid form going into this game, coming off a 4-1 win against Pumas UNAM and a 1-0 win against Motagua in the CONCACAF Champions League. Fatigue could play a key role in this encounter as Diego Cocca used the same starting XI against Motagua last Wednesday that was used against Pumas UNAM last Saturday. Gustavo Bou will inclusively not be available for the match after suffering from muscle spasms after the injury he picked up in the match against Pumas UNAM. A lot of the same players should feature in this clash as Club America is arguably the best team in the Liga MX and Diego Cocca cannot afford to make rotations. The Aztec Canines stayed in Texas after their CCL match and trained there this Thursday before departing to Mexico City this Friday. There is still plenty to worry about at Club Tijuana as the team had scored just three goals this season before putting four past Pumas UNAM.
The team is not expected to score many goals in this game as Diego Cocca is likely to take a different approach to this game than last week’s encounter against Los Felinos. The Argentine manager has been using a very conservative style in away games that has achieved some decent results, like a 0-0 draw against Monterrey at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer. The Xolos will bank on hitting a counter-attack and will have to take advantage of the few opportunities they do get in this match. Cocca may opt for the 4-1-4-1 formation that he has frequently used in away games, and the defense, along with midfielder Damian Musto and goalkeeper Gibran Lajud could be key in this clash. This is set to be an arduous task for the Border City Dogs, especially away from the Estadio Caliente.
Club America is currently top of the table with 16 points and already looks like a shoe-in to make the playoffs. Las Aguilas are the only undefeated team left in the Liga MX after eight games, but are coming off a disappointing 1-1 draw against Veracruz. Los Azulcremas were close to losing that game, but a late goal by Bruno Valdez salvaged the point from the encounter. Of course, former Xolos’ manager Miguel Herrera leads the flock in Mexico City and counts with several former Club Tijuana players on his roster as well. There are currently five ex-Xolos on Club America in Carlos Vargas, Joe Corona, Emanuel Aguilera, Guido Rodriguez, and Henry Martin. Some of the standouts on the Mexico City side are the former Xolos, like Guido Rodriguez and Henry Martin.
Rodriguez is the best defensive midfielder in the league while Henry Martin currently has five goals this season. The Xoloitzcuintles could potentially be facing all five of these players in this match, along with other talented players at Club America’s disposal. One player that will not feature in this match is Mateus Uribe as Miguel Herrera has discarded him for the encounter because of the number of yellow cards he has. Club America still has one of the more talented squads in the country and is one of the more enticing teams to watch under the leadership of Miguel Herrera.
Players To Watch
The Brazilian winger started his first game for Club Tijuana last week and made a significant impact as he scored two goals and provided an assist as well. Goncalves was the difference maker on the border city team in their 4-1 win against Pumas UNAM really awakening a dormant offense. It is incredible that the 23-year-old managed to pull this off as he had not started a game in nearly a year. The spotlight will be on Goncalves to provide another impactful display, especially against a team like Club America, and with the absence of Gustavo Bou.
Aguilar will be returning to El Nido after a three-player swap-deal that sent him back to Tijuana this year. The Paraguayan defender arrived in Mexico in 2012 with the Xolos and played with the team until being sold to Club America in 2014. Aguilar played with Las Aguilas from 2014-2017 and solidified himself as one of the best defenders in the league before his return to the Xoloitzcuintles this year. The 30-year-old centre-back has been one of the Xolos’ best players this season as he has been the leader of the squad with the captain’s armband. Aguilar seems to have around 10 defensive clearances per game and always stands out with his grit and effort.
Even if Martin does not start the game, he will still be an intriguing player to watch if he gets minutes in the match. The Mexican striker is having the best season of his career with five goals and two assists and is now receiving attention from the Mexico national team ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. There is not a plethora of talented Mexican-born strikers in the Liga MX, but Henry Martin is making a name for himself this season.
This should prove to be a typical away game for the Xolos as Diego Cocca will most likely opt to play a very conservative style of play. This style can only work for so long and may prove to be ineffective against such a powerful team like Club America. To make matters worse, the Xolos will be without Gustavo Bou, which is a huge blow to the offense and will limit options going forward. The prediction for this encounter is a 1-0 win for Las Aguilas with the Xolos not having many noteworthy moments in the clash.
Francisco, 26, Chula Vista/Tijuana. I have been a Padres fan all my life, did most of the series previews and recaps in the Padres’ 2016 season for EVT. Now I focus more on the local soccer scene. Tijuana Xolos, San Diego Loyal, San Diego Wave.