Cruz Azul has a chance to build on a modest two-game winning streak when lowly Tijuana pays a visit to Estadio Azteca.
After a slow start to the Clausura 2019, Cruz Azul seems poised to rediscover the form that helped them reach the Final last season. Fresh off a come-from-behind victory midweek in a Copa MX match, the Cementeros host a struggling Xolos team that has had difficulty scoring goals.
Cruz Azul will be eager to end a 3-game losing streak at Estadio Azteca that started with the 2-0 loss to América in the Final, a bitter defeat that likely has contributed to the erratic start to this season.
The Xolos will be playing their second straight away from home after edging León on the road last weekend. Tijuana went 1-1-6 away from Estadio Caliente last season.
Tigres 0, Cruz Azul 1
A first-half penalty conversion by Elías Hernández stood up for the Cementeros as goalie Jesús Corona earned his first clean sheet of the season. After taking the lead, the Cementeros basically sat back and absorbed pressure, ceding possession to the Tigres (68%). Sloppy Cruz Azul passing allowed the Tigres to maintain pressure for long stretches as the Cementeros failed to move the ball out of their defensive hald effectively. Coach Pedro Caixinha tweaked his line-up after a 0-1-1 start and Orbelín Pineda started on the bench.
León 0, Tijuana 1
A Gustavo Bou goal in minute 27 provided the Xolos with their first road win since Sept. 16 against Atlas. The goal was the Xolos’ first goal of the season after two shut-out losses to open the Clausura 2019. Goalie Manuel Lajud was magnificent between the pipes, making 7 saves to preserve the lead and give new coach Oscar Pareja his first Liga MX victory.
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Cruz Azul: 4-4-2
Domínguez – Aguilar – Lichnovsky – Aldrete
Méndez – Alvarado – Baca – Hernández
Rodríguez – Cauteruccio
New acquisition Stephen Eustaquio played midweek in the Cup win over Oaxaca but probably needs a couple weeks to earn a start in a league match as a defensive midfielder. Javier Salas had started in midfield the past two games after the unexpected departure of workhorse Iván Marcone, but he has not been convincing, so I suspect Rafa Baca gets the start.
Mendoza – Velázquez – Braghieri – Fuentes
Rivero – González – Rodríguez – Castillo
Bolaños – Bou
If coach Pareja opts to start Bolaños again, the Xolos will have more of an attacking mentality, though he might favor a 4-5-1 approach to open the match, putting Juan Martín Lucero in midfield to open the match. Diego González is the key in midfield, a strong two-way player who will look to disrupt Cruz Azul movement the middle while linking up with Xolos attackers.
Cruz Azul: Striker Jonathan Rodríguez is gradually becoming more comfortable with his new mates, but he probably realizes he no longer has the benefit of playing off Julio Furch. His striker partner Martín Cauteruccio lacks Furch’s presence in the air and his passing skills, so Rodríguez likely will rely on making connections with Edgar Méndez, while looking to invite passes from Roberto Alvarado and Elías Hernández.
Tijuana: Striker Gustavo Bou returned to the Xolos after a 6-month absence and scored in his first game back. He had 10 goals and 6 assists while playing for Tijuana during the Apertura 2017 and Clausura 2018 seasons. He could provide stability and reliability to the Xolos attack.
Cruz Azul might finally have shaken off the doldrums of its loss in the Final, but the reconstructed attack has not yet begun to click. Coach Caixinha is patiently waiting for Pineda and Rodríguez to fit in. The Cementeros defense, however, would appear to present a stiff challenge for the so-far weak Xolos offense.