Game: Cruz Azul Fútbol Club, A.C. vs. Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente
Date: Saturday, January 6th
Time: 6:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 p.m. Central, 3:00 p.m. Pacific, 10:00 p.m. UTC
Venue: Estadio Azul (Mexico City, CDMX)
Referees: REF: César Arturo Ramos Palazuelos, AR1: Marvin Cesar Torrentera Rivera, AR2: Miguel Ángel Hernández Paredes, 4TH: Alejandro Funk Villafañe
Television: United States - Univision Deportes Network; Mexico - TDN
All Time Record: In Liga MX play, Cruz Azul has won five, Tijuana has won three, and the clubs have drawn five times. Tijuana also lost the 2016 CONCACAF Champions League semifinal to La Maquina by an aggregate score of 2-1. Cruz Azul won the last match between the clubs by a score of 2-0 in Tijuana to open the 2017 Clausura.
Both teams come into this with new managers as well as a couple of big name signings. Cruz Azul brings in Pedro Caixinha, who has spells with Santos Laguna as well as Rangers FC in Scotland. Caixinha inherits a team that finished sixth in the Apertura before flaming out against Club América in the Liguilla quarterfinals in two of the least entertaining matches in recent memory. La Maquina brought in Javier Salas and José Madueña from Atlas as well as Walter Montoya on loan from Sevilla and former Chivas wonderkid Carlos Fierro. Fierro will look to regain the magic from earlier in his career when he was linked to Arsenal.
Xolos’ Diego Cocca takes the reins in his first match in charge of the club. Like Caixinha, Cocca also managed Santos Laguna and has inherited a squad that was strengthened during the offseason. Xolos finished eleventh in the 2017 Apertura and missed the Liguilla, however the squad was better than their record indicates - at least on paper. The squad got stronger during the offseason when Tijuana signed Pablo Aguilar from Club América, Mateus Gonçalves from Pachuca, Omar Mendoza from Cruz Azul, and José Ignacio Rivero from Argentina’s Defensa y Justicia this past Wednesday.
Both clubs will need to get more out of some of their returning players as well. Uruguayan Martín Cauteruccio came to Cruz Azul after notching nine goals for San Lorenzo in the latter half of 2016, however he’s only scored three goals for La Maquina. He’ll need to lighten some of the load from Chilean Felipe Mora, who had nine goals in the 2017 Liga MX Apertura. For Xolos, it’s Juan Iturbe who will need to produce immediately. He’s halfway through his loan from AS Roma and he still has much to prove both to the Giallorossi as well as the caninos aztecas.
This will be an interesting match for fans of these teams to see how well their respective sides have coalesced. Do the new managers have a solid plan going forward? Were they able to plug some of the gaping holes from the Apertura? And if you’re not a fan you will want to watch because these teams both have the potential to do something spectacular at pretty much any time - the question is will they have it figured out in time to pull it all off?