Game: Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente vs. Club Universidad Nacional A. C.
Date: Saturday, February 17th
Time: 9:30 p.m. Eastern, 8:30 p.m. Central, 6:30 p.m. Pacific, 1:30 a.m. UTC
Venue: Estadio Caliente (Tijuana, B.C.)
Referees: REF: Fernando Guerrero Ramírez, AR1: Alberto Morin Méndez, AR2: Miguel Angel Chua Ortiz, 4TH: Eduardo Galvan Basulto
All-time record: Xolos have beaten Pumas six times, while only losing three times. The sides have drawn level four times. In their last meeting, Xolos beat Pumas 2-0 in the C.U.
With the shutout streak fading further down the memory hole a new, less enthusiastic streak is arising for Club Tijuana (2W 3D 2L). The club has gone 199 minutes since scoring their last goal, and there’s a growing concern that Xolos’ offense won’t be breaking out of the slump anytime soon.
The best defense is sometimes a good defense however, and Xolos defense will be getting a boost with the return of Pablo Aguilar. The Paraguayan center back missed the match against Pachuca (3W 1D 3L), having picked up a red card in the prior match. Xolos still haven’t conceded a goal with Aguilar on the pitch, and they’ll need to re-gain that confidence with their captain back in the lineup.
Xolos will also get Miller Bolaños back, who was also suspended from the Pachuca match by a red card picked up in the previous match. While not the impact player that Aguilar is, Bolaños could help bolster Tijuana’s sagging offense. They’ll also get central defensive midfielder Damián Musto back, as he missed the last game for yellow card accumulation. Musto and Aguilar’s return should be a boon to the defensive showing.
Manager Diego Cocca has been using Gustavo “Pantera” Bou on the left wing, Ignacio “Nacho” Malcorra on the right wing, and Juan Lucero up top, however this triumvirate has only contributed two goals from the run of play all season long.
Pantera Bou is the club’s best goalscorer, so starting him in the center forward position where he is comfortable would also mean putting Nacho Malcorra back on his favored left wing. Bolaños can play on the right wing, as can Luis “Quick” Mendoza as well as newly-acquired Ecuadoran Julio Angulo, and Cocca may look to rotate some players due to the short week both coming in and going out - Xolos will travel to Harlingen, Texas to face CD Motagua in CONCACAF Champions League play on Wednesday.
UNAM Pumas (4W 2D 1L) have no such concerns, as the club is still toward the top of the table despite taking their first loss at the hands of relegation candidates Veracruz (2W 2D 3L) on Wednesday. Pumas still has one of the best players in the league in forward Nicolás Castillo. The Chilean has four goals on the season and has been a force, teaming up with Matías “Chavo” Alustiza and providing a classic pairing up top for Los Felinos.
It’s not just Castillo and Alustiza that make Pumas dangerous though. Luis Fuentes, Luis Quintana, Alejandro Arribas, and Josecarlos Van Rankin, and goalkeeper Alfredo Saldívar have been a solid defensive unit, holding the high-powered offenses of Club América (4W 3D 0L) and UANL Tigres (2W 3D 2L) scoreless. The knock against them though is that they play down to their opponent’s level, drawing Lobos BUAP (1W 3D 4L) and losing to the aforementioned Veracruz.
If Tijuana can regain their defensive form, they could look to contain Castillo and Alustiza and hit Pumas on the counterattack. If they can do this, they could look to pull an upset. If they falter however, it could just be more of the same for the border dogs.