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2018 Clausura Liguilla preview: Club Tijuana vs. Toluca FC

Xolos host Diablos Rojos in the first leg of the Liguilla semifinals.

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Tijuana v Monterrey - Playoffs Torneo Clausura 2018 Liga MX Photo by Gonzalo Gonzalez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Game: Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente vs. Deportivo Toluca Fútbol Club S.A. de C.V

Date: Thursday, May 10th

Time: 10:30 p.m. Eastern, 9:30 p.m. Central, 7:30 p.m. Pacific, 2:30 a.m. UTC

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

Referees: REF: Jorge Isaac Rojas Castillo, AR1: José Luis Camargo Callado, AR2: Jose Ibrahim Martinez Chavarria, 4TH: Adonai Escobedo Gonzalez

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

Streaming: Fanatiz, fuboTV (Free trial + monthly subscription), Sling (Free trial + monthly subscription), Univision NOW, Facebook Live

All-time record: The regular season record is knotted, with each team having won five times with four draws between them. In their last meeting, Xolos won 1-0 at Estadio Caliente to end the Clausura. The teams have faced off twice in the playoffs, with Xolos downing Toluca 4-1 on aggregate in their first series to win the 2012 Apertura. The Red Devils would have their revenge in the 2014 Clausura quarterfinals by a 3-1 aggregate.

Monterrey v Tijuana - Playoffs Torneo Clausura 2018 Liga MX
Miller Bolaños has quietly become Tijuana’s best offensive threat, scoring five goals in the regular season and a critical one in the liguilla.
Photo by Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images

In Kevin Smith’s 1994 movie Clerks, anti-hero Dante Hicks repeats the line “I’m not even supposed to be here today!” as his day of work at a New Jersey convenience store goes from bad to worse to... well watch the movie. While Club Tijuana’s run in the Liguilla hasn’t gone from bad to worse at all, they are still in the position where they shouldn’t even be there. They beat superlider Toluca FC on the last week of the season to secure their spot in the Liguilla, narrowly making it in as the seventh seed. They faced off against a Monterrey club that was heavily favored to win and slayed the 2017 Apertura finalists with a fantastic 2-0 win in Nuevo León that resulted in the dismissal of Rayados manager Antonio Mohamed.

Now they’ll face off against Toluca in the semifinals, with the winner going to face either Club América or Santos Laguna for the right to sew another star on their jersey. That Xolos scored twice as many goals on the road against Monterrey as they had during the entire regular season doesn’t matter. They’re not even supposed to be here today!

Toluca v Morelia - Playoffs Torneo Clasura 2018 Liga MX
Toluca have had a lot to celebrate in 2018.
Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

For their part, Toluca won the superlider about as quietly as any club in recent memory. They aren’t terribly flashy. Their leading goalscorer is Luis Quiñones, who only scored five goals during the season. They only scored three goals twice in Liga MX play. Their defense only let in thirteen goals however, and they seem to have a knack for scoring when it counts. Over the past two seasons, 12 of their 51 goals have come between the 75th and 90th minute according to sofascore.com.

As quiet as Toluca has been, their engine is the fiery Rubens Sambueza. Sambu is as dangerous as he ever was, marauding along the left wing creating space and chances for Diablos Rojos as well as hitting free kicks like this one.

For Tijuana, there are some questions as to who will be in the lineup. With Ignacio Rivero definitely missing the game thanks to his late red card and the possibility of Miller Bolaños missing the match after a dust-up with an assistant referee who grabbed Bolaños’ jersey. Look for either Luis Chávez or Alejandro Guido to get the start in place of Rivero, and if Bolaños winds up out Rubio Rubin could start at the 10.

None of this seems to matter though to Xolos. Manager Diego Cocca said in a press conference “We are facing a team with a lot of history, a lot more than Tijuana. It’s obvious they can be viewed as the favorite But we don’t worry about that. Quite the opposite. We have never been the favorites and that is fine.” The Aztec Dogs are the underdogs, and that’s fine. They’re not even supposed to be there.