Club Tijuana vs Pachuca preview: Can Keisuke Honda and Los Tuzos stop Xolos’ momentum?

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Club Tijuana vs Pachuca preview: Can Keisuke Honda and Los Tuzos stop Xolos’ momentum?

It hasn’t been easy, but Tijuana is now a few spots behind a playoff-worthy position in the top eight. Painful lessons were learned during the first f

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It hasn’t been easy, but Tijuana is now a few spots behind a playoff-worthy position in the top eight. Painful lessons were learned during the first few weeks of the 2017 Apertura, and just when it looked like Xolos were going to continue dropping points, the squad recently responded with two wins in a row.

The reason for the success? There are plenty of variables to consider here regarding the match-ups and opponents, but the most obvious explanation is a change in formation from Tijuana manager Eduardo “Chacho” Coudet.

With high-pressing fullbacks, Coudet regularly left far too much space open with his initial four-man backlines. Instead of a change in tactics, the manager decided to go with a 5-3-2 that allowed his fullbacks to press while still having three central defenders in the back. What then followed was two victories against Santos Laguna and Queretaro.

Yet, as successful as Xolos have been during their last two clashes, this Friday’s game against Pachuca has the potential to stop their newfound progress. Los Tuzos are a well-balanced group that love to dominate possession and utilize attack-minded strategies. Like Tijuana, Pachuca has also gained some momentum after finishing with a victory in each of its last three matches.

Also worth noting is perhaps the biggest factor for the upcoming game: Keisuke Honda. After making his second half debut for Los Tuzos on Tuesday, and scoring 15 minutes later, the Japanese superstar is now set to earn his first start for Pachuca this week.

Key to success for Tijuana — Control the midfield

It’s not only Honda that Xolos should be worried. Victor Guzman, who has an astonishing total of four goals and one assist in his last two games, should also prove to be difficult to handle.

This Friday, both Honda and Guzman will be a massive test for Tijuana in the midfield. With Jorge “Burrito” Hernandez supporting them in the back, both names should have plenty of freedom to run forward and create havoc in the final third.

If Xolos are hoping to walk away with at least a draw in hand, they must find a way to restrict their influence. One solution is starting two defensive midfielders. Alongside Damian Musto, an option such as Enzo Kalinski can replace a more attack-minded Luis Chavez in the starting XI.

Either way, Coudet must prepare for a possible attacking onslaught that is spearheaded by Honda and Guzman.

Xolos player to watch — Damian Perez

While it’s still up in the air if Juan Carlos Nuñez, Matias Aguirregaray or Michael Orozco will start as the right wing-back, Perez has already solidified his starting role as Tijuana’s left wing-back. The Argentine has consistently worked hard in the defense and attack this season, and against Pachuca, there will be plenty of work for him in both areas.

Assuming Pachuca dominates possession, Perez will be a key figure in the creation of counters against Los Tuzos on the left wing. Defensively, the 28-year-old will also have to track back and help stop plays from talented opponents like Guzman and Honda.

Predicted Xolos starting XI

Coudet seems to be slowly figuring out his best options, so I don’t think we will see that many changes. New signing Juan Iturbe is already registered as a player, but it’s probably too soon to give him minutes on the field.

Predicted score — Xolos 2-2 Pachuca

This should be a fun game. While an in-form Pachuca should be able to find the back of the net, I do believe that Xolos have the attacking power to bounce back. Keep an eye on Gustavo Bou as well. The Tijuana striker currently has three goals in his last three matches.