Regardless of whether you’re a fan of either side, Friday night’s Xolos vs America match is the Liga MX game to watch during Week 9.
Looking at the league standings, it’s easy to get excited about the clash between the current second and third place Liga MX teams. With the halfway point of the regular season just around the corner, one can’t help but feel as if this will provide a preview for the playoffs.
It’s an enticing battle near the top of the table, but what truly makes this match irresistible is the return of some familiar faces to Tijuana’s Estadio Caliente.
Since leaving Xolos for America less than four months ago, manager Miguel “Piojo” Herrera will be making his first reappearance at the border town stadium. Herrera, a larger-than-life figure who wore his heart on his sleeve, was loved by Tijuana’s fans during his recent tenure with Xolos.
Incessantly loud and constantly flailing on the sidelines, several supporters became infatuated with the former national team coach. Pushing Tijuana to first place in two consecutive regular seasons didn’t hurt either.
That said, Herrera won’t be the only recognizable figure from America. Midfielder Guido Rodriguez and defender Carlos Vargas will also be making their return to Tijuana this Friday. While Vargas is expected to sit on Las Aguilas’ bench, Rodriguez will be set to take on his former Xolos squad for the very the first time.
Key to success for Xolos — Remain cautious with fouls
No other Liga MX team has been fouled more than America and no other squad has caused more fouls this season than Tijuana. You do the math, things might get a bit dicey if Xolos aren’t careful on Friday.
What does that mean for Tijuana? Certain names such as Damian Musto and Damian Perez, who tend to rack up plenty of infractions, might need to be cautious with their tackles against America. As for Las Aguilas, high-pressing players like Paul Aguilar and Cecilio Dominguez top the list from those who suffer the most fouls.
In general, there’s little that separates the two sides who have similar numbers when it comes to numerous stats like possession, shots or goals. The only true major difference between America and Xolos are fouls committed and suffered over the last eight matches.
Tijuana player to watch — Luis Angel Mendoza
With the recent arrival of Juan Iturbe, there’s a good chance that Mendoza has lost his starting role with Xolos. On paper, Iturbe is a superior player who is worthy of starting up-top with Gustavo Bou.
However, it’s also difficult to overlook the impact that Mendoza has made in his last few games. With two goals and three assists in his last five matches, the striker has been crucial for Tijuana’s attack. Keeping in mind that Iturbe will now challenge him for minutes, Mendoza should be motivated to shine for Xolos against America.
Whether he’s a starter or late substitute, keep an eye on the 27-year-old.
Predicted Xolos starting XI
Other than a couple of positions, Tijuana manger Eduardo “Chacho” Coudet seems to have his ideal starting XI nearly set. I think we will once again see some changes, but only in one or two spots.
Predicted score — Xolos 2-2 America
Although others will disagree, I don’t think one team has a big advantage over the other. Both have exciting attacking names and have so far done very well defensively. A draw wouldn’t be the worst result for either side.