Game: Tijuana Xolos vs Cruz Azul
When: Friday Jan. 27
Time: 7:00 P.M. PST
Where: Estadio Caliente
TV: Azteca America
The Tijuana Xolos will have a tough task in week 4 of the Liga MX Clasura 2017 as they will take on one of the ‘big four’ of Mexican soccer in Cruz Azul.
Both teams are completely distinct from the Apertura 2016 tournament. The Xolos are minus Dayro Moreno and Cruz Azul has a new manager. Both teams need the three points on Friday, which will make for an intense encounter in Tijuana.
The Xolos currently find themselves where they left off in the Apertura 2016, in first place of the Liga MX. The team had a huge victory against one of the biggest clubs in Mexico last week, when they defeated Guadalajara 1-0 at the Estadio Chivas. While Miguel Herrera did not play beautifully with his team, he did find a way to take the win in Guadalajara. Herrera utilized a defensive and counter-attacking style of play which earned Club Tijuana only 39% ball possession, one shot on target, and also three points.
Miguel Herrera is a smart manager who will adapt his style of play depending on the circumstances. While Herrera did play defensively in his last game, he is unlikely to do the same in this upcoming match against Cruz Azul. The fact that the Xolos will play at the Estadio Caliente is already a good indicator that we are in for an exciting match with a few goals to be seen in this match. Of course the first match at the Estadio Caliente this Clausura 2017 ended with a 6-2 scoreline. While it is improbable that we will see eight goals in this match, we should see a good display of soccer in this encounter by the Xolos and Cruz Azul.
Cruz Azul has always been considered a ‘big’ club in the Liga MX. Eight league titles will earn you that respect. However, their last title was in 1997 and they have been runners-up in the tournament five times since then. This has dubbed them the unluckiest team in the Liga MX. Their luck may be in for a change this tournament, under new leadership of Spanish manager, Paco Jemez. ‘La Maquina’ only have one victory after three weeks of play, but they look like a completely different team from previous years.
Paco Jemez has instilled this winning spirit and motivation within the fans and the players, which is hard to do within a Liga MX side, especially Cruz Azul. The team from Mexico City came from behind in a 2-2 draw against Monterrey in week 3 of the competition. Jemez utilizes a very attacking and possession-based style of play, typical of Spanish mangers. In their matchup against Monterrey, Cruz Azul managed to come away with a ludicrous 77% ball possession. This may cause Miguel Herrera to counteract that with a defensive style of play like he did with Matias Almeyda and Chivas. But in front of the home crowd at the Estadio Caliente that is unlikely to happen. We could be seeing both managers go at each other with everything they have offensively, which will make for an enticing scoring duel.
Club Tijuana has not fallen to Cruz Azul in their last three league encounters. The Xolos have taken away two victories and a draw in this span. Their latest matchup came in the Apertura 2016 when Tijuana came away with a 2-1 victory over Cruz Azul at the Estadio Azul. Aviles Hurtado would come away with a goal in that particular match. These results should not weigh that much into this match, as these sides are completely different from previous seasons.
Players to Watch
The San Diego native had a huge match against Chivas de Guadalajara as he was clinical in defense and while on the attack. Arriola has been used primarily as a right wing-back this season for Miguel Herrera, providing both offensive and defensive contributions for the team. The former Mater Dei High student provided a crucial assist to Milton Caraglio to give Tijuana the 1-0 victory over the Chivas. In week 2 of the tournament, Arriola gave the fans an assist and a beautiful goal against Puebla F.C. The 21-year-old has quickly become a key component for Miguel Herrera and the Tijuana Xolos. The American has also scored against Cruz Azul in the past, in the Xolos 3-1 victory at the Estadio Azul in the Apertura 2015 tournament. Expect Paul Arriola to contribute in this game.
Corona made a big difference in the Xolos midfield last weekend in their encounter with Chivas de Guadalajara. Miguel Herrera gave the San Diego man his first opportunity to start in the Liga MX last weekend and he proved to be a versatile asset to Tijuana in their starting 11. Corona was much more creative in the midfield than Juan Carlos Medina had been in the first two jornadas for Tijuana. Hopefully the former SDSU student gets another chance to start in this week’s matchup against Cruz Azul. In his first match back at the Estadio Caliente, Corona was key off the bench, earning an important free kick, and also scoring the sixth goal of the night for the Xolos against Puebla F.C.
Angel Mena has easily been the best player for Cruz Azul at this stage of the season. The recent signing from Ecuadorian club, Emelec has already contributed with a goal and has been key in creating opportunities for the Mexico City team. Mena’s rapid pace and skillful play has played a huge role in Paco Jemez’s style of play going forward with the team. So far the Ecuadorian winger has been the only offensive player to score a goal for Cruz Azul this Clausura 2017. If someone is to break past Tijuana’s defense and Gibran Lajud, expect Angel Mena to play a role in doing so.
The match should be a really attractive encounter with quite a few goals in it. The attacking style of Paco Jemez and the fact that the Xolos will be playing at the Estadio Caliente should make for a very exciting duel between Paco Jemez and Miguel Herrera. Of course Club Tijuana playing at home is already a big advantage for the team, but to counteract that, Cruz Azul will also have support in the crowd. With Cruz Azul being a popular club there will be a larger presence of their fan base in the Estadio Caliente than some of the other teams Tijuana will face this season. Overall an action-filled 2-2 draw is the prediction for this match, with goals from Joe Corona and Aviles Hurtado for the home side. Whether it is at the Estadio Caliente or in front of the TV, make sure to watch this match. Fuerza Tijuas!