Game: Club Leon vs Tijuana Xolos
When: Saturday Feb. 4
Time: 5:06 P.M. PST
Where: Nou Camp
Club Tijuana will face perhaps its biggest task of this Clausura 2017 tournament when they travel to the Nou Camp to face Club Leon this Saturday.
The Xolos have never won a game in Leon, losing all six encounters they have had at the Nou Camp.
Miguel Herrera and the Xolos are coming from a tough mid-week Copa MX match against second division side, Correcaminos UAT. Club Tijuana suffered two red cards in the game and also a career-threatening injury to defender Yasser Corona in the match. Corona suffered cervical damage and had a successful surgical procedure on Thursday afternoon. It is still unclear whether Yasser Corona will ever step on a soccer pitch again, but the Xolos are in full support of their fallen hero. The Xolos will sport jerseys with the #FuerzaYasser in support of Corona’s recovery for this game, and possibly for the rest of the season. Miguel Herrera’s side will be motivated to take the win in this game which should make for an intense encounter. The Xolos’ skipper did say they the team will be going “for another three points”. Defender Emanuel Aguilera also said “we need to do anything necessary to win this Saturday”, showcasing that the players do have extra motivation coming into this match. The canines have played superbly defensively in their last two Liga MX matches, having not conceded a goal against Chivas de Guadalajara and Cruz Azul. San Diego native, Paul Arriola, has been improving significantly in his defensive role as a right wing-back for Miguel Herrera. He had several key defensive plays against Cruz Azul in week 4 of the competition. Captain Juan Carlos Valenzuela, who was played in the mid-week encounter against Correcaminos UAT, has also been a key figure in securing the past two clean sheets for the Xoloitzcuintles. Of course the man in net, Gibran Lajud, has also been a key figure for the border-city team, stepping up at his young age of 23. Miguel Herrera will rely on that strong back-line for this tough encounter at the Nou Camp.
In case you are not familiar with Mexican soccer, here is a fun fact about Club Leon. One of the richest men in the world, Carlos Slim, actually owns a stake in the club. This has not completely influenced the team. There is not an influx of money coming to buy top players, but it is worth mentioning. Club Leon have had a rich history in Mexican soccer, winning seven league titles, most recently in 2014. Last season, the ‘esmeraldas’ got off to a really rough start, but as soon as new head coach Javier Torrente took over, they became a distinct team. Club Leon came in as dark horses in the playoffs as the eighth seed and knocked out first place Club Tijuana in the quarter-finals. The official last match between the two teams ended in a 3-2 victory for the Xolos at the Estadio Caliente in the second leg of the 2016 Apertura tournament quarter-finals. The important thing to note here is the game was played at the Estadio Caliente and not at the Nou Camp, where the ‘panzas verdes’ have dominated the Aztec Canines. The last match at the infamous Nou Camp ended in a 3-0 defeat for Miguel Herrera’s side. It is an intimidating field to play in, especially for the Tijuana Xolos. But we should see a hard-fought, exciting encounter between the two teams on Saturday night.
Let’s get right into it. The Xolos have never won a match in Leon against Club Leon. In fact, they have never even tied a match against the ‘panzas verdes’ in Leon, they just have six losses staring right at the canine’s eyes. It really gets worse when you dive further into the stats. The Xolos have only scored three times in those six matches, while they have given up 22 goals to ‘la fiera’. How is Miguel Herrera feeling going into the match? Well, after Wednesday night’s game against the Correcaminos, somebody asked the skipper on the subject. Herrera said “It’s not a fearful pitch, all of them are the same distance”. Like I have said about every game, each game is a different story for us, we hope that this one is.” The Xolos head coach obviously does not believe history will play a factor as he said, ” There is no changing the past. What happened before is just a statistic for you guys. I care about what will happen on the day of the match”. ‘El Piojo’ does seem to be filled with confidence going into the match at the Nou Camp, and hopefully the Xolos can start changing those statistics.
Players to Watch
Aviles Hurtado is the last member of the current squad to have scored against ‘la fiera’ during the regular season. The goal came in the Apertura 2016 tournament at the Estadio Caliente. It was a spectacular chip from about 25 yards out, resulting in the second goal of the night for the Xolos in their 2-0 victory. The Colombian forward has not scored a goal since week two of the competition, when he put two past Puebla at the Estadio Caliente. But he still has played wonderfully for Miguel Herrera and should always be considered among the most dangerous men on the Xolos squad.
‘El capitan Esmeralda’ was among the top goal-scorers in the Liga MX during the 2016 Apertura tournament, with 12 goals during the competition. The Argentine striker, however, is long overdue to breaking the score-sheet this tournament as he has yet to score in this Clausura 2017 competition. Boselli has been one of the most prolific strikers in Mexican soccer for several years now. His excellent aerial and technical ability make him a force to be reckoned with. Watch out for Mauro Boselli in this enticing duel.
This game is a must watch for any soccer fan. If you do not have Galavision, make sure to head out to Buffalo Wild Wings at the Chula Vista Center to catch the game and meet Xolos cheerleaders and the Xolos mascot, ‘El Xolo Mayor’. The game will be an intense matchup, with the players coming into this game extra motivated to get the victory in honor of their teammate, Yasser Corona. Also, Miguel Herrera and the Xolos players seem to be tired of people bringing up the statistics at the Nou Camp, which is another reason why the players may come into the game with more spirit. My prediction is that the Xolos do beat the “statistics” and get a convincing 2-0 victory, with Aviles Hurtado and Paul Arriola providing the goals for the ‘xolaje’. Remember to watch the game this Saturday, and Fuerza Tijuas!