Mexico are on top of the Hex and riding high. They look like a lock to qualify for the World Cup, but they still have to get the points to wrap it up and the next chance for that is against the United States. This is a match that means more than just points, though. It’s about bragging rights, regional supremacy and, in this specific instance, protecting the famed Estadio Azteca to ensure it remains a place where visitors feel like they can’t get a win.
Juan Carlos Osorio rested some players in Thursday’s 3-0 win over Honduras, preparing for the short turnaround. He’ll have a pretty fresh squad, albeit a shorthanded one because Rafa Marquez, Andres Guardado, Miguel Layun and Carlos Salcedo are all out with injuries. Luckily for Osorio, Mexico have no shortage of talent.
Here’s how El Tri could line up:
GK: Alfredo Talavera
Juan Carlos Osorio changes his goalkeeper all the time, often to match up against the opposing team. Talavera got the nod against the U.S. in November, so odds are he is the choice again this time.
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RB: Jesus Duenas
The absence of Miguel Layun leaves the Mexicans thin at fullback, but Duenas has had some nice showings for Mexico and Osorio seems to trust him. He won’t be a huge threat going forward, but El Tri don’t exactly need more attacking players. They're full of them already.
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CB: Diego Reyes
Does Juan Carlos Osorio risk Reyes against the U.S.? Reyes’ quality is clear and when he’s good, he’s incredible. He’s also coming off a great club season, but he’s always been inconsistent for Mexico. That continued this summer with a terrible mistake in the New Zealand friendly, but he was strong against Honduras so Osorio will hope for a similar performance.
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CB: Hector Moreno
Mexico’s best defender was rested on Thursday so he would be fresh for this one.
LB: Luis Ricardo Reyes
Reyes is the lone natural fullback available for this match. Juan Carlos Osorio has played around with wingers at fullback before, but he’ll probably want to have Reyes for this one.
CM: Jonathan dos Santos
No Mexican player was better on Thursday than dos Santos. It’s possible that Juan Carlos Osorio sits him for this match because of his rotations and matchups, but with the form that dos Santos has been in for the better part of a year, he should be in the team. You don’t sit your most in-form midfielder for a match like this.
CM: Hector Herrera
Herrera has fallen off a bit in 2017 but there’s no doubt that he’s still a guy Mexico should turn to in big matches. If he’s on, he can dominate the midfield and he’s been in enough matches against the U.S. that he knows what he’s stepping into with one of these rivalry clashes. That he was excellent against Honduras has to give El Tri hope that the best version of Herrera is back.
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AM: Marco Fabian
Sitting just in front of the two central midfielders, Fabian can be a creative force, but just as importantly, he can link to the three forwards. Giovani dos Santos is another player who could slide into this role and while he may be more dangerous closer to goal, Fabian is better at linking play and that’s what El Tri will need.
RW: Carlos Vela
There is some hope that Vela can finally turn into Mexico’s star this summer. He’s been in good form at the club level and Juan Carlos Osorio appears to have confidence in him. Vela turned in a masterful performance against Honduras and now El tri will bank on him shredding the U.S. defense, then taking that form to the Confederations Cup as he becomes a Mexico star.
CF: Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez
As many good strikers as Mexico have, Chicharito is still their main man. He was on the bench against Honduras so he’d be ready for this one.
LW: Hirving Lozano
Ideally, this would be Tecatito, but he's been ruled out for the match so Lozano steps in. He's plenty dynamic and looks like he could be Mexico's next star. A shining performance in this match could fast track that rise to stardom and heat up the rumor mill, which already has him in Manchester City's sights.