Game: Tijuana Xolos vs Santos Laguna
When: Friday, Aug. 18, 2017
Where: Estadio Caliente
Time: 7:00 P.M. PST
TV: Univision Deportes
This Friday, Aug. 18, the Tijuana Xolos will host Santos Laguna at the Estadio Caliente in a week 5 matchup in the Liga MX. The match is set to be a very intriguing encounter as both teams are looking for their first wins of the new season. The game will also feature the only two teams in the Liga MX who have official English Language social media pages.
The Xolos are coming off a 10-day road trip, playing three matches away from the Estadio Caliente. The last match at home was not a memorable one as Club Tijuana fell 3-0 against Monterrey. Ex-Xolo, Aviles Hurtado, scored two goals, coming away as the hero as the Xolos were booed off the pitch by the home crowd. The road trip was unsuccessful as the Aztec Canines had three 1-1 draws, one against second division team Atlante and two more against one of the weakest teams in the Liga MX, Puebla.
The road trip may have strengthened the chemistry on the team, but the performance was much of the same. The three ties were all very underwhelming performances with very few players standing out. The defense was solid throughout the three games, as well as the goalkeepers, with Gibran Lajud having a tremendous performance against Puebla. Eduardo Coudet did experiment with his starting lineup throughout the road trip, but what did remain consistent was his formation, which was a 4-4-2 with an attacking midfielder playing just in behind the striker.
What has remained clear is that “Chacho” has yet to find his ideal starting XI, which has already turned out to be a huge problem this season. The defense seems to be set in stone as well as Damian Musto’s and Gustavo Bou’s starting roles. But every other position on the pitch seems to be up for grabs. There has yet to be a consistent performer in the midfield, and the void left by Paul Arriola is the biggest question mark on the team. Luis Angel Mendoza and Matias Pisano have had decent performances in that right-midfield slot, but have not been overly impressive at all. Pisano would be my choice, but several players can go into that slot, including Mauricio Cuero, who may get another chance after a dreadful showing in that week 1 defeat against Cruz Azul. Will Coudet finally find the perfect formula that gets the team out of this downward spiral? It is a very tough question, and even more so based on the caliber of opponent Club Tijuana will be facing.
Santos Laguna is arguably the best team left in the Liga MX that has not won a game. Los Guerreros had three consecutive ties to start off the season coming against Lobos BUAP, Tigres UANL and Monarcas Morelia. After this string of ties, the team from Torreon had its worst performance of the tournament last week, a 3-2 loss against Veracruz at home. Veracruz is arguably one of the worst teams in the Liga MX and the loss was a very tough one for Santos Laguna. The Celestial Warriors are not going into this game in tremendous form, but still have a very strong squad that is in much better shape than Club Tijuana. Manager Jose Manuel de la Torre is a shrewd operator, and with the type of squad he has, featuring players like Osvaldo Martinez, Julio Furch, Jonathan Rodriguez, and Djaniny Tavares, it should be very tough for Xolos to get any points out of the game. Those four players alone combined for 18 goals in the Liga MX Clausura 2017 and comprise one of the most potent attacks in the league.
“Chepo” de la Torre does have some flaws with his team with the absence of club captain and star centre-back, Carlos Izquierdoz. The Argentine has been out all season due to injury and will miss this game, as he has not even been present at any recent practices. Jorge Enriquez has been filling in for Izquierdoz, but the Mexican has played as a midfielder for most of his career and does not seem comfortable in that position. In that last game against Veracruz, Enriquez played further up the pitch throughout the game than midfielder Ulises Rivas, showcasing how unfamiliar he is in that centre-back role. The gaps left by Enriquez throughout the game on Friday night could prove to be the key to success for the offense to produce some key scoring opportunities. Santos Laguna is still a very well-structured side under the vigilant eye of Jose Manuel de la Torre and should give the Xolos a very hard-fought and complicated match.
Players to Watch
Bou is the obvious player to keep an eye on for this encounter as he has scored the only goal this season for the Xolos in the Liga MX. Offside or not, the goal counted, and that could be the boost of confidence that gets the Argentine going this season. In an interview with ESPN Bou said, “I don’t just want to be another player”. “La Pantera” clearly has the ambition and drive to succeed with Xolos and it will be interesting to see how he performs in this game after scoring his first career Liga MX goal.
The massive Argentine centre-back may not get the start in this game, but fully deserves to be in the starting XI. Donatti has served his two-game suspension and will now be available for Liga MX games and could get the start in this game. The 30-year-old has been a consistent starter in Copa MX games and has really looked like one of the better players on the pitch in those games. Eduardo Coudet will need a strong physical presence in his back line coming up against Santos Laguna, who have several players who are renowned for their aerial abilities. Specifically, they need someone to mark the massive Argentine striker Julio Furch, and Donatti, out of everyone on the roster, is the perfect man for that job.
At the heart of the Santos Laguna team is the engine and mastermind of the team, Osvaldo Martinez. The Paraguayan midfielder was one of the best players in the Liga MX Clausura 2017 and has been vital to Santos’ success since his arrival last season. Martinez has several qualities that make him an amazing player, but his most dangerous one is his outside-of-the-box shots. In the Clausura 2017, the Xolos saw that firsthand as Martinez scored an amazing goal against the border city side in the 1-1 draw between the two teams at the Estadio Caliente. Martinez creates most of Los Guerreros’ scoring opportunities and the Xolos will need to find a way to contain him in the midfield.
The game should be one of the best and most contested encounters in the Liga MX this weekend. Both teams are eager to get that first win of the season out of the way and both teams have untapped potential that may flourish in this game. This should be a very challenging task for Eduardo Coudet and it is difficult to see the Xolos coming away with the three points from the game. The prediction for the game is a 2-1 win for Santos Laguna, marking the fourth loss for Coudet’s Xolos and continuing the losing streak at the Estadio Caliente.