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Match preview: Atlas vs. Tijuana

Xolos kick off their 2020 Apertura with a fresh new look, but will it be enough to get past an Atlas team on the rise?

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Mexican Soccer Stadiums Remain Empty Due To Coronavirus Photo by Gonzalo Gonzalez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Game: Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente vs.

Date: Saturday, July 25th

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: César Arturo Ramos Palazuelos, AR1: Andres Hernández Delgado, AR2: Jonathan Maximiliano Gómez, 4TH: Jesus Rafael Lopez Valle, VAR: Luis Enrique Santander Aguirre, AVAR: Jonathan Hernandez Juarez

Radio: 98.9 FM (Tijuana/San Diego), 106.7 FM (Calexico/Mexicali)

Television: United States - FOX Deportes Network; Mexico - Fox Sports 2 Cono Norte

Streaming: fuboTV (Free trial + monthly subscription), Sling TV (Free trial + monthly subscription), FOX Sports GO

All-time record: Tijuana holds the slight edge on Atlas, winning five to Los Zorros’ four with the clubs drawing nine times. The last time they played was on January 31, 2020 when Atlas defeated Xolos 2-1 in an empty Estadio Jalisco. The game was played behind closed doors because of Atlas’ fans repeated use of a homophobic slur. Atlas got goals from Luciano Acosta and an 88th minute winner from Javier Correa, while Xolos’ lone goal was a penalty converted by Camilo Sanvezzo. The last time the teams met at Estadio Caliente, the clubs drew 2-2 on October 5, 2019. Xolos ended the game with just eight players as Sanvezzo, Ariel Nahuelpán, and Kevin Balanta were all shown red cards and Manuel Balda salvaged the point for Atlas in the 96th minute of the match.

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Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Everything old is new again, or so the saying goes. The last time these clubs met, there were no fans in the stands. Atlas and Tijuana both had a lot of questions coming into the match around the direction of the clubs. This time there will be no fans in the stands and both teams will look to answer some questions.

Xolos have been tipped as dark horse candidates after raiding Querétaro during the offseason and hiring former Monarcas Morelia manger Pablo Guede. But while the squad has undoubtedly gotten better on paper, it remains to be seen if the chemistry is there between the players. Xolos were one of the teams who were not in the Copa GNP por Mexico and did not appear in any preseason matches. With all of the options in the attack, how will Guede make them all fit together? And will new addition Jonathan Orozco be enough to bail out Xolos’ defense, which has been suspect over the past couple of seasons?

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Atlas manager Rafael Puente, Jr. needs to produce results, but his squad looked to have turned a bit of a corner at the end of the Clausura.
Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Atlas also comes in with different questions, albeit with similar themes. Atlas brought in Ignacio Malcorra from Pumas and Renato Ibarra, who was released by Club América after being arrested for attempted femicide. The charges were later dropped, however Ibarra was injured in his debut for Atlas so it’s not clear how much of a distraction his presence will be. Ibarra will most likely miss the match. The managerial spot is also in question. Rafael Puente, Jr. has had some success in Liga MX, but not much with Atlas and the big question will be around how long his leash will be with Grupo Orlegi. If Puente can’t get results right away, he may not see the season out.

The good news for Puente is that Atlas ended the Clausura with a win and looked to have been pulling themselves together. If they can use their experience in the Copa por Mexico to their advantage and keep Tijuana off-balance, they could very easily pull off a win. Tijuana needs to play their game and stay on the front foot, as their offense will be the key not only to this match but to the season in general.