Game: Tijuana Xolos vs Pachuca
When: Friday March 3 2017
Time: 7:00 P.M. PST
Where: Estadio Caliente
TV: Azteca America
The Xolos will face Pachuca this Friday to kick off the week 9 action of the Liga MX Clausura 2017. The clash is set to be one of the best of this week between Club Tijuana, in first place, and Pachuca, in third place. Only two points separate the ‘Tuzos’ from the Xolos, so the match will prove to be crucial for this tournament. The match also serves as a preview of a possible playoff clash later in this competition. The game should be another thriller at the Estadio Caliente, a must-watch for this week 9 of the Liga MX.
The Aztec Canines will look for their third consecutive victory at the Estadio Caliente in all competitions. Of course, the border city side won against Monterrey last Friday by a score of 2-0, in week 8 of the Liga MX Clausura 2017. Then this past Tuesday, the Xolos treated a crowd of over 20 thousand fans to a 2-1 victory in the Copa MX against second division side, Cimarrones de Sonora.
Miguel Herrera’s side showcased a dominant performance over Monterrey, not allowing their opposition to create anything in that game. Then on Tuesday, the Xolos barely beat Cimarrones de Sonora with a late goal by Victor Malcorra in the 90th minute of the match. Tijuana’s players could not get the ball in the back of the net, which almost cost the team a ticket to the round of 16 in the Copa MX. Miguel Herrera described his players problems in front of net, simply as “bad luck”.
The Xoloitcuintles’ head coach has been experimenting with the lineups a lot recently, going with three different formations in the last three games. Herrera went with a 4-4-2 formation against Pumas UNAM in week 7 of the Liga MX. Then last week against Monterrey, ‘Piojo’ utilized a 4-3-3 formation, which worked wonders for the Xolos, showing their most dominant performance of the Clausura. Finally, against Cimarrones de Sonora, Herrera started off the game with a 5-2-3 formation. For the most part, the Mexican skipper has used formations with five defenders. It will be interesting to see what formation and what players Miguel Herrera uses for this game against Pachuca. Whichever players Herrera does decide to go with, they will certainly have a huge advantage over their opposition, playing at the Estadio Caliente.
Pachuca is one of the most historic and successful teams in Mexican soccer. The ‘Tuzos’ or ‘Gophers’ are one of the oldest teams in America, established in 1901, and have won the Liga MX competition six times. Recently, Pachuca has also been known for producing some of the best young talent in Mexican soccer through its youth academy. Diego Alonso’s side has been successful in this campaign, sitting in third place with 14 points, only two back of the Xolos in first place. The numbers do not tell the whole story, however, as it is not as good as it may seem for the ‘Tuzos’ in this Clausura 2017. Pachuca is coming from a slim 1-0 victory against a team fighting relegation, in Veracruz. The goal for Pachuca came in the 92nd minute via a crucial error by the Veracruz goalkeeper. Before that victory, Pachuca had only won one game out of its previous five encounters. The team is also struggling to put the ball in the back of the net, only having scored three goals in the Liga MX since week 3 of the competition. Pachuca can be one of the most dangerous teams in the league, despite the lack of production recently. Pachuca’s defense is also a strong component of the team, led by center back, Oscar Murillo. The ‘Tuzos’ have achieved four shutouts in this Clausura 2017 tournament. Hopefully a fifth one is not achieved against the Xolos. It should be interesting to see how the ‘Gophers’ fare in this match at the Estadio Caliente.
The Xolos have faced Pachuca 11 times in regular season play since 2011. The matchups have been pretty even, with Tijuana winning four of the encounters, Pachuca winning three, and four draws between the two. The Xolos have never lost to the ‘Tuzos’ at the Estadio Caliente, getting four victories and a draw. Another interesting thing to note is that Miguel Herrera debuted as the Xolos manager in week 1 of the Clausura 2016 tournament against Pachuca at the Estadio Caliente. The game ended in a 1-1 draw, with Carlos Guzman getting the lone goal for the border city side. The last encounter between the two teams ended in a 2-2 draw at the Estadio Hidalgo in the Apertura 2016 competition. The two teams have never had a game end 0-0 between them, so a few goals are expected in what should be a great match this Friday.
Players to Watch
The San Diego native had been a consistent starter for Miguel Herrera up until week 8 of the competition against Monterrey. Arriola was also benched in the midweek Copa MX matchup against Cimarrones de Sonora this past Tuesday. This was especially odd because Arriola had been benched last Friday against Monterrey. Arriola has been used in different roles this tournament. Against Monterrey off the bench, Arriola was used in the wing-back position he has adopted this tournament. Then, against Sonora, the San Diego native was used as a midfielder, going forward and generating attack for the Xolos. It will be interesting to see if the former Mater-Dei High School student does get the start against Pachuca and also how ‘Piojo’ will decide to utilize the American in the encounter, even if he does not get the start.
Victor Ignacio Malcorra
The Argentine has been one of the best players for the Xolos, and in the Liga MX in general. Malcorra now has three goals and three assists in the competition, being one of the main playmakers for Miguel Herrera this tournament. The Argentine midfielder arguably has one of the deadliest free kick abilities in the Liga MX. Two out of the three goals for Malcorra have been via free kick, so it will be interesting to see if he can get an opportunity to get another free kick goal in this game. Victor Ignacio Malcorra should play a key role in the game, being instrumental in the Xolos’ scoring opportunities.
‘El Chucky’ Lozano is currently the prize Jewel of Pachuca’s youth academy, being a great young talent at 21 years old. The Mexican winger is destined to play Soccer in Europe, generating interest from various teams in some of the top leagues in the world. For now, Hirving Lozano is doing great work in the Liga MX with the ‘Tuzos’, having scored three goals in the Clausura. ‘El Chucky’ was present on the score sheet the last time these two teams met in the Apertura 2016 tournament. It is probable that Lozano could find his way to the back of the net at the Estadio Caliente this Friday.
The Xolos are in good form right now, being one of the top teams in the league. While Pachuca, based on results, is also considered one of the best teams in the Liga MX, their performances have been far from convincing. The Xolos have scored 18 goals in this tournament, 10 more than the ‘Gophers’ have. That, and the home-field advantage, can prove to be the deciding factors in the game for Miguel Herrera’s side. The prediction for the game is an action-packed 3-2 victory for the border city side. This is a result that has been seen twice before in regular season play, once in the Apertura 2011 and the other occasion being in the Clausura 2015. The game should be one of the best of this week 9 of Liga MX play and should present a lot of goals for the sold out crowd at the Estadio Caliente. Fuerza Tijuas!
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.