With the halfway point of the regular season just around the corner, this Friday’s match against Monterrey is a perfect opportunity to gauge where Tijuana is at in this tournament. Up against a Rayados side that has yet to lose a game in the Clausura, Xolos fans will be able to see if their club is worthy of once again chasing a league title.
Although Monterrey has had its fair share of underwhelming and disappointing results in the past several months, the highly-talented squad is finally beginning to look like its old self.
One year ago, there was no doubt that Los Rayados were the most dominant team in the 2016 Clausura. The club sat at first place during the last 13 weeks of the regular season and finished with a whopping total of 38 goals in 17 matches.
Although the team wasn’t able to gain a title in the championship series against Pachuca last May, Los Rayados appeared set to take charge in the ensuing Apertura. However, due to a number of factors — like Edwin Cardona’s slump, injuries and lack of a true preseason — Monterrey instead shuffled into ninth place in the following tournament.
A few months later, the squad is now slowly making its way back up the league table. As mentioned beforehand, although some haven’t been the most exciting results, Los Rayados have found a way to remain as one of only two undefeated Liga MX teams.
As for Xolos, the club will be looking to bounce back after going two matches in a row without a win.
Looking at a possible lineup, Tijuana manager Miguel “Piojo” Herrera has toyed with a backline of four in recent weeks, but after news emerged that American Michael Orozco is now fit, Herrera might switch back to Xolos’ previous 3-4-3/5-2-3 setup.
Whether it be a coincidence or not, Tijuana has had better performances before the manager switched to a four-man backline. It’s too early to say which one works best for Xolos and Herrera, but Friday night’s game will undoubtedly be able to provide some more insight.
Key to success for Tijuana: Halting Monterrey’s expected barrage of shots
Last week, Xolos took on a Pumas side that currently leads the league with shots on target. This week, Herrera’s men will take on a Monterrey side that easily leads the league with shots in general.
Although they don’t always hit the target, Rayados have launched a total of 134 shots in seven games, that’s an astounding average of 19 shots per match. The key here is halting those opportunities, many of which are audacious attempts from distance.
Xolos player to watch: Guido Rodriguez
This is the exact type of game for Rodriguez to shine. With a tendency to work the ball through the middle, plenty of Monterrey’s attacking movement will be through the Argentine’s area of the pitch.
Rodriguez has proven on countless occasions that he can take on any Liga MX opposition, and with plenty of talented midfield and attacking names in Los Rayados’ roster, Friday could prove to showcase a thrilling battle and performance from the defensive midfielder.
Predicted score: Xolos 1-1 Monterrey