“We are going in with the mentality to keep working the same way we have been working,” stated Xolos manager Miguel “Piojo” Herrera on Thursday morning. “We have worked to go in there and come out of it with what we want and get the result.”
Herrera is speaking of course about this Saturday’s game against Los Rayados in Monterrey. After maintaining a spot in first place in recent weeks, the manager should understandably feel confident about getting “the result” that is wanted this weekend. Although Los Rayados have one of the more talented rosters in the league, the club has struggled with less-than-exciting results during the start of the Apertura. The team has only collected two wins in seven games and has faltered defensively with the 10 goals allowed in the season. To give some perspective, Tijuana has only allowed a total of five so far in the tournament.
Monterrey is a struggling squad, but one that is also still a contender for a league title this year. The club has yet to lose at home and has very talented names like Arturo Gonzalez, Edwin Cardona and Dorlan Pabon in the attack. Los Rayados will also have starting goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco back in the starting XI for just the second time this season. After missing out in the first six games of the tournament, the Mexican returned for Monterrey during Week 7 and helped keep Pachuca to one goal during the 1-1 draw. The 30-year-old is a clear leader for the squad and one that will likely shine against Xolos’ noteworthy attack.
Saturday’s match will be a tough one, and despite the momentum that Xolos currently have, Rayados manager Antonio Mohamed will be eager to bounce back after the international break with an impressive result at home. Mohamed isn’t on the hot seat just yet, but there’s no denying his underwhelming first few games in the Apertura. Due to the fact that the halfway point of the regular season is just around the corner, Mohamed and his roster will need to start waking up as soon as possible.
Following this weekend’s difficult battle, Herrera and his men will continue to take part in what will likely be the busiest short stretch of the year. After facing off against Monterrey this Saturday, Xolos will then travel to Toluca to take on Los Diablos Rojos in a Copa MX match on Wednesday night. To make matters more difficult, Tijuana will then immediately make the trip to Pachuca to face off against Los Tuzos during a Liga MX game three days later.
That’s three away matches for Herrera in just seven days. Some may make the argument that the mid-week Copa MX game is unimportant, but it’s key to note that the match against Toluca will define whether Xolos will qualify for the knockout round of the competition. A win is all that’s needed against Los Diablos Rojos, and from there, Xolos would be just four victories away from raising a title.
Yet, even if Herrera wanted to chase three wins in seven days, playing with starters in all of the matches would be a foolish decision. With that in mind, Herrera will need to decide what he believes is more important: Qualifying for the knockout round of the Copa MX or holding onto first place in the Liga MX.
After the “We are going in with the mentality to keep working the same way we have been working…” quote from Herrera on the upcoming Monterrey game, it appears as though it’s a near guarantee that he will save his best options against Los Rayados this weekend. Luckily for Xolos fans, there is now enough depth in the squad to also potentially find success in the following Copa MX match. Back-up/bench players like Paul Arriola, Juninho, Gibran Lajud and Juan Carlos Nuñez are more than capable of taking control of the game that could push Tijuana to the Round of 16.
If Xolos can find a way to weather the upcoming storm, the team might be able to not only hold onto first place in the league, but also have a spot secured in the knockout round of the Copa MX.
Predicted score: Monterrey 1-1 Tijuana
Predicted starting XI for Tijuana