Cruz Azul visits “El Infierno” to face the Diablos Rojos as both clubs face the realization that their seasons are headed in the wrong direction.
Cruz Azul is in jeopardy of seeing its entire season collapse after winning the Copa MX and reaching the Finals in December. Now issues both on and off the field are conspiring to sidetrack the Cementeros. Injuries are piling up and Coach Pedro Caixinha has further weakened his position with several self-inflicted wounds.
Meanwhile, their hosts on Sunday – the Diablos Rojos of Toluca – have been held scoreless during their current 3-game losing streak. Captain Carlos Esquivel insists his mates are “focused, not desperate … we are not distracted.” Still, coach Hernán Cristante could see his seat get quite hot if they lose at home to Cruz Azul.
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Tijuana 2, Toluca 0
Miller Bolaños scored before the game was a quarter-hour old and the Xolos then played keepaway, completing 82% of their passes and sending 15 shots at Alfredo Talavera who came up with 6 saves. Xolos midfielder Fabian Castillo knocked home a second goal for the hosts and Tijuana eased to the win. The game was quite physical – 46 fouls and 6 yellow cards as well as a red card for Toluca central defender Fernando Tobio at the final whistle.
León 2, Cruz Azul 0
The Cruz Azul offense went from stagnant to non-existent, though to be fair the Cementeros were forced to play 72 minutes with only 10 men after a questionable red card was shown to Yoshimar Yotún who was in the line-up in place of the injured Adrián Aldrete. León enjoyed a significant advantage in possession and frustrated the Cementero offense throughout.
Salinas – Maidana – González – García
Pardo – Rios – Da Silva – Mendoza
Gigliotti – Triverio
Toluca likes to attack down the flanks, while midfielders Antonio Rios and William da Silva close down the middle and shield the competent central defenders (Osvaldo González is a capable replacement for the suspended Tobio). The strike tandem of Emmanuel Gigglioti and Enrique Triverio is just getting to know each other, but somebody has to step up and find a goal. Luis “Quick” Mendoza and Felipe Pardo need to keep pushing forward and try to keep the wounded Cruz Azul defense on its heels.
Cruz Azul: 4-4-2
Madueña – Lichnovsky – Reyes – Domínguez
Hernández – Baca – Salas – Alvarado
Cauteruccio – Rodríguez
The back line is a mess with hard man Pablo Aguilar out injured as well as left back Adrián Aldrete. The suspension of Yotún will force a major reshuffling at the back for Caixinha and he may even ask Roberto Alvarado to drop back into a fullback role. Up front, striker Martín Cauteruccio and his back-up Milton Caraglio have contributed nothing this season – 0 goals. Winger Elías Hernández has all 3 Cruz Azul goals this season. New signing Orbelín Pineda has been a disappointment and has not won a starting spot yet.
Toluca: Emmanuel Gigliotti was signed from Argentina’s Independiente on Jan. 2 and is still familiarizing himself with the league and his new teammates. After scoring 12 goals in 15 games last season with Independiente, he needs to start producing to retain his starting position.
Cruz Azul: Roberto Alvarado showed flashes of talent last season such that he earned multiple call-ups to El Tri. The 21-year-old has not rediscovered the form that made him a revelation and he must start to show greater consistency.
Cruz Azul is probably the more desperate team after coming so close to the double last season. The Cementeros believed they could challenge for the league title again, but right now the playoffs are not a sure thing. But with this desperation comes frustration and the injuries leave coach Caixinha shorthanded. Toluca is typically very tough at home and they’ll be fighting to preserve coach Cristante’s job.