Game: Cruz Azul vs Tijuana Xolos
When: Saturday, January 6, 2018
Where: Estadio Azul, Mexico City
Time: 3:00 P.M. PST
TV: Univision Deportes
The Liga MX Clausura 2018 started this Friday as Puebla defeated Tigres UANL 2-1 and Leon defeated Atlas by the same score.
The next game on the agenda for this first week of Liga MX action in 2018 will be the game between Cruz Azul and the Tijuana Xolos at the Estadio Azul in Mexico City. Both teams have undergone some massive changes this offseason and will be motivated to start off strong in this tournament.
The Tijuana Xolos are now led by manager Diego Cocca and have some new players on their squad as well. The notable additions this offseason include Omar Mendoza, Jose Ignacio Rivero, Mateus Goncalves, and Pablo Aguilar. There were some departures as well, including Joe Corona, Emanuel Aguilera, and Henry Martin all signing for Club America. Cocca’s starting lineup for this game was leaked by the always reliable Said Rodriguez and here is what it looks like.
The Argentine manager will go with a 4-4-2 formation with Gibran Lajud in between the sticks. Damian Perez, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Pablo Aguilar, and Michael Orozco make up the back line. Ignacio Malcorra and Juan Iturbe on the wings and Luis Chavez and Damian Musto down the middle in the midfield. Finally, the strike partnership of Miller Bolanos and Juan Martin Lucero with the absence of Gustavo Bou. There are some talking points within this lineup that include the absence of Gustavo Bou due to an injury.
The decision to start Michael Orozco in the right-back back slot instead of Matias Aguirregaray or Omar Mendoza. Also, the inclusion of youngster Luis Chavez instead of players like Enzo Kalinski or Alejandro Guido. Damian Musto making the starting XI is also very surprising as he had been linked to a failed drug test back in his playing days in Argentina not too long ago.
The Xolos will look for a nice start to the new year after failing to make the playoffs in the Apertura 2017 under the management of Eduardo Coudet. This is more of a continuation of a rebuilding project as the squad is not too different from it was in the Apertura 2017.
Cruz Azul also has a new manager at the helm in Pedro Caixinha after the departure of Paco Jemez to Spanish team Las Palmas. Jemez led Cruz Azul to a sixth-place finish in the Apertura 2017, but he was very controversial with his choice of words at times that led to his departure from the club. Caixinha is coming over from a failed stint with Scottish team Rangers, but has had success in the Liga MX before with Santos Laguna. The Portuguese boss led Los Guerreros to a championship in the Clausura 2015 with a very limited squad at his disposal.
With Cruz Azul, the squad is not limited as it is filled with talent, especially offensively. La Maquina added Jose Maduena, Javier Salas, Walter Montoya, and Carlos Fierro this offseason. The team did lose Omar Mendoza to Xolos, Christian Gimenez to Pachuca, and Gabriel Penalba to Spanish team Las Palmas. Overall the team has improved from the Apertura 2017, but still might need to look for a defender in the international market. Offensively, the team is set with players like Carlos Fierro, Felipe Mora, Angel Mena, Martin Rodriguez, and Edgar Mendez. Caixinha played a very orderly style of play and will not press hard at the opposition, which is similar to the way Diego Cocca likes to play. This might not make for the most exciting game, but this Cruz Azul team is definitely one that Xolos should worry about heading into the match.
Players to watch
Juan Martin Lucero
The Argentine striker is a natural goalscorer, and that is something that is very noticeable with his positioning and aerial abilities. Lucero had five goals in 757 minutes of play in 2017 between the Clausura 2017 and Apertura 2017. His playing time was very limited in the Apertura 2017 with just 302 minutes of play, and with a bit of playing time, he should be able to score a few goals.
Standing in at 6-foot-2, Mendez has a very good physical presence as well as the speed that makes him a lethal forward. The Spanish winger ended the Apertura 2017 with five goals, two of which came against Club Tijuana in week 1 of the competition at the Estadio Caliente. Cruz Azul has many dangerous forwards along with Mendez that should test the experienced back line that will play this Saturday.
This game will not be easy at all for the Aztec Canines to start off the Clausura 2018, especially with the absence of Gustavo Bou that could prove to be crucial in the game. With the way both managers typically play, it is very likely that there will not be too many clear scoring chances in the game. The Xoloitzcuintles must take full advantage of any opportunities that come their way and try to close spaces to the threatening Cruz Azul attack. The prediction for the game is a scoreless draw between the two team, which may not sound too exciting, but it would be a decent result for Club Tijuana, especially away from home.