The Mexico national team will look to close out this round of World Cup qualifying with a perfect record of six wins out of six when they take on Honduras at the Estadio Azteca on Tuesday.
Here is what to watch for in Mexico’s last World Cup qualifier before the hexagonal.
What to watch for:
The reception at the Azteca - After slipping into a historic level of shame in the Copa America Centenario, Juan Carlos Osorio better get used to the idea of always having pressure. The Mexican crowd is anything but a happy camp, and five months after their last game at the Estadio Azteca, El Tri return to Mexico City to play its first home game.
A hard-fought win over El Salvador has provided Mexico a brief oasis, but the fact of the matter is El Tri continue to bring little but criticism. Against La Selecta, Mexico rallied in the second half to earn all three points, but this is a team that in the first half looked without confidence in itself as they conceded first. For a second it looked like Mexico were headed towards total disaster again before belatedly raising their game to escape defeat.
As Mexico return back home, Juan Carlos Osorio and his team should not expect to feel the typical warmth of the Azteca. It is going to take more than a win over El Salvador to win back El Tri fans.
Los Catrachos still need to get a result - The last time Honduras visited the Estadio Azteca, it was the beginning of the end for Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre. It was the night of the infamous “Aztecazo 2.0”. That night took Honduras closer to the World Cup, while doomed Mexico to what ended up being a fourth place finish in the hexagonal.
While comparing then to now would make little sense, Honduras need a result here to take themselves one step closer to the World Cup. Los Catrachos still need a draw to automatically seal a place in the hexagonal, and given that, El Tri fans can expect Honduras to set up to avoid defeat.
Jorge Luis Pinto’s side remains an overly physical team, the kind Mexico always struggle against. In their last game in San Pedro Sula, El Tri engaged in a physical battle in the midfield, and it was a moment of brilliance from Jesus “Tecatito” Corona that paved the way for a historic Mexican win. If El Tri is to consider getting all three points from this match, they might need a similar performance against an Honduran side eager to eke out a draw (or at least a defeat of just a goal or two).
Who will play striker for Mexico? - The loss of Raul Jimenez looks to be a serious blow to a team who was already suffering from a significant amount of absences. Raul filled the void of the injured Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez on Friday and did well, scoring a goal from the penalty spot and becoming a good source of attack against the El Salvador back line.
Angel Sepulveda, who marked his national team debut by scoring a goal against El Salvador, could take up the no. 9 role, but that could result in the lack of another physical body on the wing against a team that likes to play a more direct style of play. In this same fixture last year, Juan Carlos Osorio decided to play it cautious by starting Raul Jimenez on the wing and Oswaldo Alanis as left back to counter Honduras’ physical presence out wide.
That said, this could mean we either see Martin Barragan or Angel Zaldivar make their senior national team debut. Both have impressed early in the Liga MX season and are ready to provide able assistance to Osorio when he needs it.