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Match preview: Club Tijuana vs. UNAM Pumas

While Pumas and Xolos finished on different ends of the table last season, both have significant questions after offseasons of change.

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Tijuana v Pachuca - Torneo Guard1anes 2020 Liga MX Photo by Francisco Vega/Getty Images

Game: Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente vs. Club Universidad Nacional

Date: Friday, January 8th

Time: 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 p.m. Central, 7:00 p.m. Pacific, 3:00 a.m. UTC

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

Referees: REF: Saul Alfredo Silva Pineda, AR1: Andres Hernández Delgado, AR2: Mauricio Nieto Torres, 4TH: Fernando Hernandez Gomez, VAR: Angel Monroy Bello, AVAR: Leon Vicente Barajas Anzures

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

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

All-time record: Tijuana leads the series with nine wins to Pumas’ six, while the clubs have drawn five times. All of their previous meetings have been in Liga MX play. In their last meeting, Pumas got a resounding 3-0 win thanks to goals from Carlos González, Alejandro Mayorga, and a golazo from the center line from Bryan Mendoza.

SOCCER: NOV 08 MLS - Colorado Rapids at Houston Dynamo
Mauro Manotas will need to help Xolos improve an offense that scored just 12 goals last season.
Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s been less than a month since Pumas last took the field when they lost in the Liga MX Final to León. For Tijuana it’s been exactly two months since their season ended with a 2-2 draw against Querétaro, their once promising season ending without making the repechaje. The two teams kickoff their 2021 Guard1anes hoping to put different disappointments behind them.

Xolos are hopeful the new players they’ve brought in will help improve on both sides of the ball. Julián Velázquez returns after a stint with Querétaro and will join Gonzalo Jara from Mazatlán to shore up a defense that allowed 27 goals last season. They’ve also brought in midfielder Esteban Pavez from Al-Nasr in the United Arab Emirates, Fidel Martínez from Shanghai Greenland Shenhua of the Chinese Super League, Mauro Manotas from the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer, and Miguel Sansores from Mazatlán to shore up an offense that scored a league low 12 goals.

Pumas UNAM v Toluca - Torneo Apertura 2019 Liga MX
The loss of Carlos González will be a litmus test for Pumas and force Juan Ignacio Dinenno to shoulder more of the goal scoring load.
Photo by Carlos Ramirez/Getty Images

The trick will be to get all of that to come together in such a short period of time. Pumas also need to perform that trick, as they lost some very critical pieces of their squad from the last season. Gone are Alejandro Mayorga (Chivas), Andrés Iniestra (Juárez), and perhaps most importantly Carlos González (Tigres). Pumas will most likely be relying on canteranos to fill the gaps left by a defensive stalwart (Mayorga), the engine of the midfield (Iniestra), and the confidence and swagger (and five goals) brought by González.

Pumas still has Alfredo Talavera in goal and Juan Ignacio Dinenno up top, so there are still important pieces remaining. Tijuana too has good players returning, including goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco and forward Fabián Castillo and this game should be a good reveal for both teams to show what they are going to be in the coming season.