Things have been quite difficult for Tijuana during the past few weeks.
A quick look at Liga MX’s league table easily showcases the bleak and distressing fact that Xolos are currently sitting at the very bottom with zero points. To add insult to injury, Tijuana is also the only team left in the tournament without a goal in the regular season.
Xolos’ misfortunes also had an influence during the recent Copa MX match against Atlante. After taking an early 1-0 lead in the midweek cup match, and going down to 10 men, Tijuana later allowed a late equalizer from Atlante’s Carlos Cauich in the 95th minute.
— #CopaCoronaMX (@CopaCoronaMx) August 9, 2017
To make matters worse, winger Paul Arriola announced on Wednesday night that he would be leaving the team and joining MLS’ D.C. United. Although the move is positive for the young American, Arriola’s exit is a bittersweet one for Xolos fans who are justifiably worried about Tijuana’s poor start.
That’s where Puebla steps in.
On paper, Friday night’s away game should be one of the more straightforward and simple matches of the season. Man for man, Los Camoteros have one of the weakest rosters in the entire league. Puebla’s attack hasn’t been as dismal as Xolos’, but defensively speaking, no other team in Liga MX has allowed more than the eight goals that Los Camoteros have given up so far.
Keeping in mind that Tijuana manager Eduardo “Chacho” Coudet is desperate for his first regular season win, this week’s clash appears as a perfect opportunity to gain a much-needed victory.
Key to success for Xolos — Find the right replacement for Arriola
Here’s a harsh reality for Tijuana: In the current roster, no player can recreate the same kind of pace and speed that the 22-year-old brought to the right wing. Arriola will be dearly missed, but there are a few options that might be able to be decent replacements.
If Coudet just wants pace, Mauricio Cuero might be the best name to consider. However, a big problem with the the agile Colombian is his less-than-exciting start in Week 1, as well as recent injury worries. Juan Martin Lucero is more well-rounded but is perhaps better suited as a striker.
The safe bet here is to give another start to Matias Pisano. The 25-year-old, who has had occasional moments of magic with his dribbling, is also capable of providing some dangerous shots from distance. What Pisano needs is more consistency, and with Arriola now heading to MLS, this Friday might be his chance to shine.
Xolos player to watch — Gustavo Bou
In his first three matches, Tijuana’s new star striker has only had two shots for Xolos — one of which was on target. In case you missed that, after a total of 208 minutes on the field for Tijuana, Bou has only had one shot on target for his new club.
Granted, the 27-year-old should be given time to adjust. After joining the squad in late June, the Argentine has had less than two months of training with the roster. That said, there was a massive amount of hype surrounding the striker who was and is supposed to be the focal point in the attack.
Like Coudet, Bou should feel motivated to stand out this week against a weak opponent.
Predicted Xolos starting XI
Will Coudet stick with his 4-4-2? Will he change to a 4-3-3? Who will replace Arriola? Who will start in net? Keeping in mind that the starting XI tends to be confirmed or leaked shortly after I post my preview articles, here is what I’m thinking Coudet might go with.
Predicted score — Tijuana 2-1 Puebla
During the last match, it was clear that Coudet was eager to push his fullbacks high up the field. Although this could lead to a goal or two, it might cost Xolos once again with plenty of space for the opposition to run down the wings.
That said, I think Bou and Ignacio Malcorra should help carry Tijuana to a narrow win.