This Friday night, Tijuana will have no excuses against Santos.
On paper, Xolos have the superior roster, better form over the 2017 Clausura and a home-field advantage at the Estadio Caliente. More importantly for this week’s match, manager Miguel Herrera must also recognize the need to earn three points before a daunting list of clashes in April.
After the upcoming international break, Tijuana will have to face America, Toluca, Tigres and a surprisingly successful Atlas next month. The only real “easy” game in April is against Chiapas, but it’s worth noting that Los Jaguares will be desperate for points near the end of their relegation race.
With all of this in mind, Herrera should hit the ground running against Santos this Friday. Looking ahead to a few of those challenging matches in the near future, it’s going to be vital for the manager to gain a win at home — especially when you consider that Xolos are still chasing a playoff spot.
As for Los Guerreros, the team has made significant progress from last season, but it’s tough to imagine them walking away with a victory. Santos have yet to earn an away win in this Clausura and have scraped by with six hard-fought draws in their nine league games.
Despite a newfound organization seen in the starting XI, impressive leadership from a defender like Nestor Araujo and a roster filled with many promising Mexican names, the team’s hard-working run in the tournament hasn’t produced more than two meager victories.
There’s undoubtedly something brewing there for Los Guerreros, but on Friday, all signs point to a much-needed win for Xolos.
Keys to success for Tijuana — Shutting down Djaniny Tavares
Although Xolos’ defense should also focus its energy on Jonathan Rodriguez and Julio Furch, in recent weeks, Tavares has looked like Santos’ key player in the attack.
With three goals and an assist in his last four league matches, and a goal in the recent Copa MX loss to Cruz Azul, the Cape Verdean has truly kickstarted his season.
Tavares covers plenty of space on the attack but also tends to move slightly to the right flank, meaning that defenders like Damian Perez and Victor Emanuel Aguilera will have plenty of work cut out for them.
Xolos player to watch — Paul Arriola
Arriola has got something to prove this week. After being left out of this month’s USMNT call-up, and gradually losing his starting spot in Xolos’ squad, the agile 22-year-old is in need of a great performance to silence his doubters.
Whether he gets the start or is an option off the bench, be sure to keep an eye on the talented American who was one of Herrera’s best players during the first half of the tournament.
Predicted score — Tijuana 2-1 Santos Laguna
Edit: I completely forgot that Joe Corona has a red! I’m guessing that Juan Carlos Medina will be taking his place in the midfield.