Xolos need something incredible to happen on Saturday night.
After looking absent during the recent 3-0 loss to Leon in the first leg of the quarterfinals, Tijuana manager Miguel “Piojo” Herrera will need to provide one of the best performances in his managerial career this weekend.
We are talking about something on the level of his leadership in Club America’s dramatic comeback in the 2013 Clausura championship or the 3-1 win for Mexico over Croatia in the 2014 World Cup. Herrera has proven to have this kind of capability to motivate his squads in the past and will need every ounce of his energy to inspire his Tijuana starting XI that will need at least three goals.
As mentioned, the minimum tally needed will be three goals for Xolos in the second leg, which is assuming that Leon doesn’t score. If Los Panzas Verdes find the back of the net once, Tijuana will need five goals or more. If the opposition scores twice, Xolos will need six goals or more.
Thanks to Tijuana not scoring any away goals in the first leg, Herrera’s men will have to amass a significant amount of opportunities if Leon is able to find the back of the net once or twice on Saturday night.
Do Xolos have a chance? Yes, but Herrera and his starting XI will need to be absolutely perfect.
A spot in the semifinals would require Tijuana’s attack to be more proactive than usual while also somehow avoiding a single goal from the opposition that could sink the squad’s morale. That means that several key players who have looked average in recent games, will need to be rejuvenated and energized.
Ideally, a change in the starting XI would also be needed, but like usual, that’s unlikely from the manager who rarely strays from his favorite starters and formation. If Herrera doesn’t change his 4-2-3-1 formation or bring in any new players, Leon could easily utilize the same exact strategy that suffocated Tijuana’s attack and midfield on Wednesday.
Although it would be a difficult decision, bringing off a player like Dayro Moreno, Milton Caraglio or Aviles Hurtado for another midfielder would be the best way to steal possession away from Leon. Options like Juninho or Ignacio Malcorra would be perfect in a 4-4-2 formation. A 5-3-2, an old favorite from Herrera, would also confuse a Leon roster that is expecting another similar set-up.
Unfortunately, neither of these will likely be used by the manager who has struggled to find a back-up plan. Due to the fact that Xolos have rarely need a back-up plan during the regular season, Herrera has never had a need to apply one. Now, with the second leg of the quarterfinals just around the corner, the coach might be scrambling to find answers.
Win or lose, what the manager and his roster have done this season should be applauded. Herrera exceeded expectations and brought playoff soccer once again to Tijuana. The squad finished as the #1 seed in the Apertura, and for a few months, the roster also looked like one of the most exciting and dynamic in Mexico. That said, many fans will be left dissatisfied if Xolos are knocked out in the first round of the playoffs this weekend.
Tijuana will need an astonishing showing at home on Saturday to overcome the three-goal deficit.
Predicted score: Xolos 4-2 Leon (aggregate score: Xolos 4-5 Leon)
Xolos predicted starting XI: