Game: Tijuana Xolos vs Puebla
When: Friday, Jan. 26, 2017
Where: Estadio Caliente, Tijuana, Mexico
Time: 7:00 P.M. PST
TV: Univision Deportes
The Tijuana Xolos will host Puebla for their fourth game of the Liga MX Clausura 2018 this Friday at the Estadio Caliente. Both teams have had solid starts to the new season and should produce a very interesting clash at the Mictlan. Club Tijuana is currently undergoing a few changes as Alejandro Donatti and Enzo Kalinski have officially departed the club while Juan Iturbe has suffered a season-ending injury. Gustavo Bou reportedly still had muscle discomfort during the week, but is likely to start this game on Friday. The defense has been phenomenal for the Aztec Canines as the team has yet to concede any goals, but the offense has struggled with just a goal so far. Club captain Pablo Aguilar has really led the back line with his immense grit and leadership. Gibran Lajud has been playing incredibly as well and just received a well-deserved call-up to the Mexico national team. The Xolos are coming off an impressive scoreless draw against Monterrey away from home. Los Rayados were the runners-up of the Apertura 2017 and are the current Copa MX champions.
This point away from home was monumental for Club Tijuana, even if the actual product on the pitch was not the greatest. Diego Cocca’s pragmatic style is not the most attractive to watch, but it has been very effective this season as the team is still undefeated and has still yet to concede a goal. Cocca used a 4-1-4-1 formation against Monterrey, but may change it around in this game to try to be more aggressive against Puebla. Club Tijuana must be aggressive and take risks in these home games to try to get wins at the Estadio Caliente. On paper, this game seems like a simple task to get points, but Puebla has gradually been on the rise and it could prove to be a much more complicated match.
Puebla finished 15th in the Liga MX Apertura 2017 with just 16 points, but the team has gradually been on the rise since last season. The experienced Enrique Meza took charge of La Franja in Week 13 of the Apertura 2017 and Los Camoteros have 14 points from nine Liga MX games since then. This includes wins against Monterrey and Tigres UANL and a draw against Club America at the Estadio Azteca. In the Clausura 2018, Puebla has two wins and a loss from three games and is currently in fourth place. La Franja started off the tournament with a shocking 2-1 win against Tigres UANL, then had a 1-0 loss to Morelia, but pulled it back last week with a dominant 2-0 win against Veracruz.
Enrique Meza has a very talented and skillful attack that can easily generate play and a very ordered defense. Under the Mexican manager, Puebla has proven to be one of the more ordered teams in the Liga MX and one of the more attractive teams to watch as well. La Franja thrives on having possession of the ball and making quick and accurate passes. A key for Xolos in this game will be to disrupt the play and try to control possession of the ball to counteract Puebla’s play. Los Camoteros are an underrated team in the Liga MX that does not get a lot of attention and they should be able to give Los Xoloitzcuintles a good fight on Friday night.
Players to Watch
Fernandez is coming over from Melgar in Peru and looks like a very promising export to the Liga MX. The Colombian, attacking midfielder just made his Liga MX debut last Friday against Veracruz. Fernandez had an impressive game, providing an assist and really showcasing the talent that made him one of the best players in the Peruvian league. The 24-year-old is a very creative and skillful player that has great vision and agility. The Xolos’ defense has been on point, but it may struggle to contain Fernandez and this Puebla attack.
Acuna is nicknamed “El Messi” not because of his otherworldly skills, but more as what started as a joke. However, Acuna has been one of the more entertaining players in the Liga MX to watch recently and has been performing at a very consistent level. The Mexican winger is very quick and runs up and down the pitch for the entire game, giving a maximum effort. Acuna can be a very skillful player and can also prove to be reliable in front of the net. The 29-year-old has a goal this season and will look to try to dismantle this Xolos’ defense.
Lajud has been one of the Xolos’ best players this season and it will be interesting to see what he can do after getting a call-up to the Mexico national team. The 24-year-old has been playing out of his skin so far and has still yet to allow a goal. As mentioned before, Puebla does have speedy and skillful wingers like Omar Fernandez and Francisco Acuna and also has a strong target man in Lucas Cavallini. Lajud will have a tough task, but he will need to perform with the spotlight on him after this call-up.
On paper, the Xolos should come away with the three points from the game, especially with the home-field advantage. But Puebla has proven to be a very orderly side that is gradually making a rise and could surprise some people at the end of the season. The prediction for this match is a 1-1 draw as Club Tijuana seems to be playing far too conservative to get a win in a game like this.