Xolos’ rivalry with Leon doesn’t compare to that of a Clasico Nacional or a Clasico Regiomontano. In fact, there has yet to be a name for the rivalry between the two teams that have battled together in Mexico’s second and first divisions.
That said, there is something special about the aforementioned clubs who have constantly gone up against one another during the entirety of Xolos’ existence since 2007. While Tijuana was gradually making progress in the second division, Leon halted their hopes of an early title through a 4-0 aggregate victory against them in the quarterfinals of the 2007 Apertura.
Four years later, Xolos were able to gain revenge on Los Panzas Verdes with a 3-0 aggregate win during the semifinals of the 2011 Clausura. After Tijuana gained promotion to the first division in 2011, Leon made the jump back to the top flight as well a year later in 2012.
Since then, the two rivals have taken part in several thrilling high-scoring matches, as well as two games in the 2012 Apertura semifinals which led to Xolos’ only Liga MX title.
Despite the fact that Tijuana vs Leon isn’t as storied and historic as a Chivas vs America or a Monterrey vs Tigres, the encounter between the squads has nearly always proven to be an intriguing match-up that seldom fails to entertain. Will their next meeting be any different?
This Friday, Xolos will host a Leon side that has struggled to make much of an impact during the 2016 Apertura. With only one point gained, manager Luis Fernando Tena will be keen on gaining a much-needed victory against Tijuana. Although Leon has had its own fair share of injury problems, Tena may soon be on thin ice if he continues to falter in the tournament.
Xolos, on the other hand, are the most in-form team in the Liga MX. While Leon is sitting at last place in the league table, Miguel “Piojo” Herrera’s men are riding high at first place in the competition. Thanks to superb performances from Dayro Moreno, Guido Rodriguez, Gabriel Hauche and a few others, Tijuana is just one victory away from surpassing the squad’s tally of three wins from last season.
However, one thing that must be mentioned is Xolos’ defense. Herrera’s excellent attack through a 4-3-3 formation has so far been able to hide some subtle problems that have emerged during the season. The manager has yet to find out who his best options are in the backline and has struggled to inspire much from the club’s most noteworthy defensive addition of the summer, Yasser Corona.
The Mexican national team player, who was supposed to reinforce the starting XI, has looked lost during his minutes in the Liga MX and Copa MX. Due to this, Herrera has benched the 29-year-old during the last two league games. Although Leon has only scored once so far this season, the team still has the talent in the roster to knock-in one or two goals against Xolos on Friday night.
Options like Elias Hernandez and Luis Montes are just a couple of names that have the abilities to be game-changers for the visiting side. Does this mean that fans at the Estadio Caliente should be worried? Probably not. As it stands, Xolos have a more dangerous attack and more momentum after the recent wins.
As for Leon, there are still question marks over the health of numerous key players. There is a potential for plenty of goals, but more than likely, Tijuana will emerge with three points. Whatever the result, Friday night will surely add another layer to the growing rivalry between Xolos and Leon.