Whether it be due to the Copa MX, formation changes or just pure coincidence, it’s clear that Tijuana has struggled to provide consistent results during the past few weeks.
After a bright start to the 2017 Clausura, Xolos stumbled last month in a 2-1 loss to Necaxa at home. One week later, the team blew a 3-0 lead in the 3-3 draw with Pumas. In the following match, Tijuana gave fans hope with a convincing 2-0 victory over Monterrey, but was then quickly knocked down by last week’s 3-2 defeat at home by Pachuca.
Despite an impressive Copa MX showing from Xolos during this run, it has been difficult for the team to regularly transition over that confidence over to the Liga MX side.
Heading into the second half of the season, it’s vital for manager Miguel Herrera to regain momentum before the start of the playoffs. The coach still has time to pick up his pace, but the same could be said for the numerous clubs who are just a few points behind Tijuana.
One of those teams who are beginning to close the gap on Xolos are Los Gallos Blancos. Following the appointment of Jaime “Jimmy” Lozano as manager of the club in early February, Queretaro has picked up three wins, one draw and one loss.
Although some could point out that Los Gallos Blancos will be damaged after the 4-1 defeat by Monterrey last week, the argument could also be made that Lozano will be eager to bounce back in his current first-ever tournament as manager.
At just 38 years of age, the coach has proven to be a welcome breath of fresh air from the organization that struggled during the beginning of the Clausura. Now, with Lozano at the helm, Queretaro is looking like a dark horse for the title.
It might not prove to be a major factor, but it’s also important to note the easier week that Queretaro will have before Saturday night’s clash with Xolos. Considering the fact that Los Gallos Blancos played a Copa MX match at home on Tuesday, Tijuana will have one to two fewer days of rest after playing on Wednesday and then making the trip to Queretaro this Friday.
As for players to watch out for in the opposition, Xolos will have a massive task against Tiago Volpi, who is widely regarded as the best goalkeeper in the league. The Brazilian will undoubtedly make things difficult with his high-flying saves that have salvaged points for Los Gallos Blancos.
Key to success for Tijuana — Closing out the game
Of the 14 goals that Xolos have allowed in this tournament, 11 have arrived during the second half. That’s more second half goals allowed than any other club this season. If Herrera finds himself with a lead, or even with a draw, the manager will need to be smarter with his substitutions and tactical changes that have hurt Tijuana near the end of several matches.
Xolos player to watch — Damian Perez
Saturday is set to be a big day for the defender. One week after scoring Xolos’ first goal in the 3-2 loss to Pachuca, Perez is now faced with the task of halting a Queretaro side that loves to attack down the right wing. This weekend will be a perfect opportunity for Perez to showcase his surprisingly accurate tackles and interceptions.
That said, Los Gallos Blancos will surely make things very tough at home on Saturday.
Predicted score — Queretaro 2-1 Tijuana