Game: Tijuana Xolos vs Toluca
When: Friday, April 21
Where: Estadio Caliente
Time: 7:00 P.M. PST
TV: Azteca America
The Tijuana Xolos will take part in what is set to be one of the best matches of this week 15 of the Liga MX Clausura 2017.
First place Toluca, who has 26 points, will visit the Estadio Caliente this Friday, April 2,1 to take on the second place Tijuana Xolos. Both teams are among the best this tournament and should be able to give an exciting encounter this Friday.
The Tijuana Xolos are coming off a huge week where the border city side obtained six out of six possible points. On Wednesday, April 12, the Aztec Canines faced Queretaro away from home and defeated the ‘Gallos Blancos’ by a score of 1-0. Then to follow up that performance, the Prehistoric Dogs visited Chiapas on Saturday, April 15, and came away with a 2-1 victory. Aviles Hurtado proved to be a huge factor in this run, getting two out of the three goals scored by Club Tijuana. The defense has also been surprisingly exceeding expectations, even with the absence of Victor Aguilera and Michael Orozco. While Aguilera is out for the season, Orozco is not, but it does not appear like the American will be back for this game against Toluca. Juan Carlos Nunez was not great in his lone game against Queretaro, receiving a red card, while Hiram Munoz has looked solid in the few minutes he has played.
It will be interesting to see who Miguel Herrera ultimately decides to include in his starting 11. “El Piojo” will be serving his fifth and final game of suspension after altercations with a referee and a fan, and will certainly not enjoy not being on the sidelines for such an important game. The Xolos have not lost with the assistant coach, Diego Ramirez, on the sidelines, getting two wins and two draws, and will look to continue that trend on Friday night. The inexperienced defense has shown up and will need to do so again in this game. The key to success will be the midfield as Toluca possesses a strong midfield core and the midfield battles should be what decides the game.
Toluca is in its centennial celebration in 2017 and is one of the oldest and most successful clubs in Mexican soccer. ‘Los Diablos Rojos’ are going for their 11th Liga MX title to celebrate their 100th year anniversary in style. Toluca currently has one of the strongest teams in the Liga MX and is in first place with 26 points, one point ahead of the Xolos in second. The 10-time champions are coming off a hard-fought 1-1 draw to Monterrey, with the only goal for them coming from ex-Xolos’ player, Gabriel Huache. Before that loss, Toluca had lost to Cruz Azul 2-0 on Thursday, April 13, but prior to that loss, the ‘Diablos’ had won three consecutive games. This includes two tough away games at Pumas UNAM and Leon. The Estadio Caliente is similarly as imposing as those venues and might not be a factor that fazes the Devils.
Toluca’s strongest component is easily its defense, even with the absence of Rubens Sambueza, who will not play until week 17 due to a suspension. Pablo Barrientos and Jesus Mendez have been the two main figures in the midfield. Barrientos is a skillful player who can generate decent scoring opportunities with his sub-par passing ability. Mendez offers more of a physical presence in midfield, but is still very good at going forward, with two goals in this tournament. The defense for Toluca is very experienced and has done an excellent job this Clausura, only allowing 14 goals. A big part of such few goals being conceded has also been the goalkeeper, Alfredo Talavera, who plays for the Mexican national team and has 50 saves so far. Expect Talavera to play a role in this game as he often does. ‘Los Diablos’ will be motivated to get the three points, wanting to keep that first-place spot.
Players to Watch
The midfield battles could decide this game and the Xolos’ best player will need to be in top form. Rodriguez has been amazing all season, being the most valuable player for Miguel Herrera, excelling both defensively and offensively. The pressure of having two youngsters in the back line will also mean that Rodriguez will need to provide more coverage like he has been doing recently. The Argentine has the highest pass efficiency on the team and has recovered the ball 312 times this tournament, good for third best in the Liga MX. Rodriguez will need to stay consistent with those numbers to continue help lead the Xolos to victory.
Gabriel Hauche has not had an overly successful campaign with Toluca, getting two goals in 13 games. But his history at the Estadio Caliente and as a member of the Tijuana Xolos is too great to ignore to keep him out of the players to watch. Before Aviles Hurtado was the main figure with the border city side, the spotlight was on Dayro Moreno and Gabriel Hauche. The Argentine played with the Aztec Canines from 2015-2016, getting 14 goals in that time. His small frame, standing at 5-foot-6, and his quick pace make him a tricky player to defend against. Hauche also has an outstanding shooting ability and can even be a threat from outside of the box. Expect the Argentine to play a role in this game, especially being familiar with the synthetic turf at the Estadio Caliente.
The game should be a fascinating encounter between two of the best teams in the Liga MX. The clash could decide who will come out on top as the first-place team after week 15. The only way the Xolos could emerge as the top team in the Liga MX is with a victory, that the border city side should be able to accomplish considering the home-field advantage. The duel will serve as a big test for the Aztec Canines, a victory being a huge merit, especially with a dismantled defense. All factors point to this being a very contested game with no clear winner. The prediction is that the Xolos play one of their best games this tournament and do get the favorable result, getting a slim 2-1 win. The lone goal for Toluca will be scored by Gabriel Hauche and the two goals for the home side will be orchestrated by Aviles Hurtado and Victor Malcorra. The match is a must-watch this weekend in the Liga MX and should produce a great spectacle.