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
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.
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.
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.