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2018 Clausura Match Preview: Club Tijuana vs. Club Puebla

Unbeaten Xolos will host Puebla in the late match on Friday.

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Eugene Rupinski / FMF State of Mind

Game: Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente vs. Club Puebla

Date: Friday, January 26th

Time: 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 p.m. Central, 7:00 p.m. Pacific, 2:00 a.m. UTC

Venue: Estadio Caliente (Tijuana, B.C.)

Referees: REF: José Alfredo Peñaloza Soto, AR1: Israel Valenciano Torres, AR2: Jose de Jesus Baños Caballero, 4TH: Alejandro Funk Villafañe

Television: United States - Univision Deportes Network; Mexico - Azteca 7

Streaming: Fanatiz, fuboTV (Free trial + monthly subscription), Sling (Free trial + monthly subscription)

All-time record: Tijuana has won four against Puebla, including a 6-2 win when they last faced off at Estadio Caliente in the 2017 Clausura. Puebla has won five, and the clubs have drawn four times.

Tijuana v Necaxa - Torneo Clausura 2018 Liga MX
All smiles so far this season from Tijuana.
Photo by Fausto Vargas/Jam Media/Getty Images

What a difference a season makes. After three games in the Apertura, Tijuana was in free fall. They’d lost all three games, conceding six goals along the way. In the Clausura, Xolos have won one and drawn two. They’ve also not conceded a goal in 2018, which is a credit to a renewed focus on defense.

Perhaps no player in Liga MX has been more important to their team in the first three week of the season than Pablo Aguilar. Returning to Tijuana during the offseason after three full years with Club América, Aguilar has been a strong, steady presence on the back line along with Juan Carlos “Topo” Valenzuela, Damián Pérez, and a resurgent Michael Orozco.

Monterrey v Tijuana - Torneo Clausura 2018 Liga MX
Pablo Aguilar has been a crucial part of of Tijuana’s solid defense.
Photo by Gustavo Valdez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Offensively Xolos have been less effective than they were last season, scoring only one goal so far this season. They’ll be showing a bit of a different look this week as right winger Juan Iturbe will be out for the rest of the Clausura with a ruptured cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Expected to replace Iturbe is Luis “Quick” Mendoza, who had two goals and three assists in twelve appearances in the Apertura. Quick not only adds speed but vision and guile along the right side. It will also remain to be seen if Gustavo “Pantera” Bou is available for selection this week. Pantera missed the match against Monterrey with a nagging injury.

Pumas UNAM v Tijuana - Torneo Apertura 2017 Liga MX
Quick Mendoza has an opportunity to win the starting job in place of injured Juan Iturbe.
Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Puebla (2W 0D 1L) has started the Clausura strong, with wins over Tigres and Veracruz. They’ve scored four goals in the three games, all from different players. Lucas Cavallini and Hugo Rodríguez were the goalscorers against lowly Veracruz last week, with Brayan Angulo and Francisco Acuña scoring in the opener against Tigres.

Goalkeeper Moises Muñoz and the Puebla defense have allowed just one goal in each of their three games.

FBL-MEX-PUEBLA-TIGRES
Four different players have scored for Puebla this season, including Francisco Acuña.
Photo credit should read ROCIO VAZQUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

In the match against Veracruz, Los Tiburones were able to work the middle of the pitch and create some good chances going forward. Look for the central midfielders to play a critical role for Xolos, be it Damián Musto, Miller Bolaños, Luis Chávez, or anyone else from deep lying defensive mids to the attacking central midfielders.

Defensively, Xolos will need to watch for plays from the outside headed centrally. The Puebla full backs and wingers love to try and hit big targets like Cavallini and either let them finish or get the ball off to smaller targets like Omar Fernández and Acuña.