Game: Tijuana Xolos vs Club Necaxa
When: Friday Feb. 10
Time: 7:00 P.M. PST
Where: Estadio Caliente
TV: Azteca America
Week 6 of the Liga MX Clausura 2017 starts with the Tijuana Xolos hosting Club Necaxa at the Estadio Caliente.
The game is supposed to be a mismatch as Tijuana is in first place, while Necaxa is in 15th place. But the Liga MX is unpredictable as anything, so it should be a good clash between the two teams.
After five weeks of play in the Liga MX Clausura 2017, the Tijuana Xolos have now established an identity in this league. The border-city side has done well, accumulating 12 points and holding that first place position. Tijuana is now a team that is expected to make the playoffs and fight for the title. This identity was established for Club Tijuana because of its impressive 4-2 victory against Club Leon at the Nou Camp. The team really played as a unit in that match with outstanding performances all around. Miguel Herrera’s side is also coming off a midweek, friendly match against the L.A. Galaxy at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. The match finished in a 1-1 draw, and although few starters played, freshly signed Jorge Ortiz and Matias Pisano did get a chance to start in the match. It will be interesting to see if either of the Argentine players get a chance to be featured in this match against Club Necaxa. During a midweek news conference, Xolos’ midfielder Victor Ignacio Malcorra did say, “Anyone can play. There is an intense internal competition and that means we need to be at 100 percent”, suggesting that the freshly signed players are battling for a starting role in the club. The Xolos are the favorites coming into this match. and should come away with the W, considering the home-field advantage that the Estadio Caliente does provide.
“Necaxa is a difficult team”. “It has good players and it strategizes well”. That is how Victor Ignacio Malcorra described his opponent heading into this match. The ‘Rayos’ are not your typical 15th place team. They achieved success in last years tournament, reaching the semi-finals with virtually the same team they have now. Head coach Alfonso Sosa has managed the team using the same tactics for awhile. He is renowned for his heavy defensive style of play, taking advantage of any mistake his opponent makes to start a counter-attack with the speedy forwards the team has. Necaxa only has four points in this Clausura 2017, but it did achieve a huge win against a tough opponent in Club Pachuca in week three of the tournament. The team from Aguascalientes also managed to come away with a point last week against a tough opponent in Monterrey. Necaxa should put up a strong fight in this game and make for a hard-fought encounter.
When Club Tijuana was on its way to the first division of Mexican soccer in 2011, Necaxa was actually on its way out to the second division of Mexican soccer. With the teams being in different leagues, Xolos played Necaxa for the first time in Liga MX play last year in the Apertura 2016 tournament. The game was played in Aguascalientes at the Estadio Victoria, where the final score was a 1-1 draw. The goal by Necaxa was by winger, Luis Felipe Gallegos, while the Xolos scored via a penalty by Dayro Moreno.
Players to Watch
It would be unfair not to include Aviles Hurtado in the players to watch after his performance in the Xolos’ 4-2 bashing over Leon. The Colombian forward was the main figure in attack for Miguel Herrera in that match, and has been throughout this season. Hurtado picked up two penalties for Club Tijuana, scored a penalty, and also provided an assist against Leon. Hurtado showcased the class, skill, and vision he does possess. The Colombian also showed his unselfishness as he had an opportunity to take a shot, but instead gave a marvelous pass to Paul Arriola, which resulted in a goal for the American player. Hurtado will have to be in top form against this tough Necaxa defense and a very good goalkeeper in Marcelo Barovero.
The San Diego native has been a crucial component to the Xolos’ success this season, even though he has slipped under the radar. With great players like Aviles Hurtado and Guido Rodriguez, who often times steal the show, the work that Joe Corona has provided this season has gone unnoticed by several people. The former San Diego State Aztec is coming off his best game of the season at the Nou Camp. Corona’s distribution of the ball and control of the midfield was outstanding in the game. He has shown this type of work before in the season, having a great game against Chivas de Guadalajara in week three of the competition. Corona has one goal this season and it was the sixth goal against Puebla F.C. in Xolos’ dominant 6-2 win over ‘La Franja’ at the Estadio Caliente. Even if his work may be unnoticed at times, keep an eye out for the former Sweetwater High student in this game.
The Chilean forward was arguably the best player in last year’s Apertura 2016 tournament, playing superbly for Club Necaxa, scoring nine goals. Unfortunately, in this Clausura 2017 tournament, Puch was injured in the first week. He recently came back from the injury, and played in Necaxa’s week five encounter against Monterrey. The Chilean National did look off in the game, and it appears as if he is not fully recovered from the injury. Hopefully for Alfonso Sosa, Puch will be at 100% for this game as the ‘Rayos’ will need him to lead the attack against the Xolos.
The Argentine goalkeeper has been crucial for Necaxa this season, saving the team from conceding several goals. The 32-year-old is arguably the reason why the ‘Rayos’ did get a victory against Pachuca and a draw against Monterrey. Barovero currently leads the league in saves with 27, two more than Queretaro’s Tiago Volpi, who sits at second in the category with 25. The Xolos have had issues finishing opportunities at times throughout the year, and coming up against a keeper like Marcelo Barovero can prove to be a tough task. The goalkeeper match-up in this game will be interesting as Gibran Lajud has also been spectacular for the Xolitzcuintles. Lajud is also among the top shot-stoppers in the league with 20 saves this tournament. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top in this game.
The match will be a hard-fought encounter, but the Xolos should definitely have the edge in this match, especially considering that the game will be played at the Estadio Caliente. The players are motivated coming into the match, coming off a huge win in Leon. Victor Ignacio Malcorra stated ” we are going to do whatever we can to get the three points at home”. This match will be far from easy coming up against the heavy counter-attacking style of Alfonso Sosa. Any mistake that the Xolos make can prove to be the decider in the match. The players will need to be in top form to avoid making those mistakes and to finish any opportunities. The prediction for the match is a 1-0 win by Miguel Herrera’s men; Necaxa typically do not let in many goals, or score very many goals. The game should be a good duel, and make sure to watch it on TV or at the Estadio Caliente. Fuerza Tijuas!