In all competitions, Tijuana has remained undefeated in its last seven matches. With four draws and three wins, Xolos have now pushed away the initial worries seen during the start of the 2017 Apertura.
It took a few weeks to iron out some necessary kinks, but what truly proved to be a game-changer in the regular season was a switch to a high-pressing 5-3-2 formation. The attack became more dynamic and recent signings such as Gustavo Bou, Damian Musto and Luis Angel Mendoza thrived in the new setup.
Although things haven’t been as exciting with a four-man backline in the Copa MX, at time of writing, Tijuana is still very likely to qualify for the knockout round of the competition.
It’s a good time to be a Xolos fan, but the big question heading into this weekend is if they can hold onto this momentum. On Sunday, Pumas will await a flourishing Tijuana roster at the Estadio Olímpico Universitario.
Key to success for Xolos — Keep Nico Castillo quiet
The difference between a win or loss for Tijuana might depend on the health of Nico Castillo. The striker, who is undoubtedly Pumas’ most important player, has recently returned to training after recovering from an injury.
The 24-year-old Chilean is a strong and efficient striker who regularly punishes any and all defenders in the league. If Castillo is match-fit, it’s imperative that players like Alejandro Donatti or Juan Carlos Valenzuela constantly keep an eye on him.
If not, Sunday’s game might get ugly very quickly for Xolos.
Player to watch for Tijuana — Juan Iturbe
Last month, we saw glimpses of what the new addition can provide. The winger is quick, aggressive and a perfect replacement for Paul Arriola. After making his late August debut, Iturbe is expected to earn his first start of the Apertura this weekend.
This then brings up another question: Where will he play?
The Argentine-born Paraguayan could work alongside Musto and Ignacio Malcorra in the midfield, but is probably better suited in a more advanced position next to Bou. It’s worth a try, and if Iturbe is able to cover plenty of ground in the final third, a partnership with Bou might prove to be thrilling.
Predicted Xolos starting XI
Iturbe isn’t the only new player who might sneak into the starting XI. Recent signing Miller Bolaños is another name that Coudet will want to test out. The manager has a few different ways of approaching the upcoming match, but I think the starting roster might look like this.
Predicted score — Pumas 1-1 Xolos
These early Sunday games are sometimes more conservative and sluggish than others. It’s also looking like it might rain during the match as well. Assuming that Castillo will be fit, I’ll go with a hard-fought draw in Mexico City.
— @Xolos_En (@xolos_en) September 9, 2017