Mexico will take on rivals the United States in a key World Cup qualifier this Tuesday at the Azteca Stadium, with both teams' chances at making it to Brazil somewhat dependent on the result.
Obviously there are still plenty of qualifying matches to go, but with Honduras holding down first place, the pressure will be on both Mexico and the USMNT to pick up the other two remaining spots that would see them move through to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
A win for Mexico would see them jump the United States and move back into second place in the group, whilst a USMNT win would see them pull four points clear of their fierce rivals. And whilst neither result will have an instant impact on the World Cup picture per se, it could turn out to be a key turning point that either team will look back on at the end of the qualifying process.
The Azteca Stadium (capacity of 105,000-plus) has already been sold out, making Tuesday's World Cup qualifier a very fascinating fixture to watch indeed.
Read on to see some bold predictions as to what could unfold on the night.
First Goal is Scored Within the Opening 10 Minutes
The United States scored after just 16 minutes in their recent match against Costa Rica in the blizzard, whilst Mexico opened the scoring against Honduras after 28 minutes.
And whilst that might not point to much here, when considered in light of what's transpired in previous meetings between these two teams, you can again expect an early goal to be scored in this one.
How early? I'd say within the opening 10 minutes of the game.
The last competitive game between these two countries saw three goals inside the opening 30 minutes; the game before that saw two in the opening 20 minutes. And in the game played prior to those, Mexico netted five goals against the United States, though none occurred early in the game.
Both teams have dominant attacks that are likely to produce goals, and given the emotion that's likely to be evident in the Azteca Stadium, an early goal could well be on the cards from either team.
I say the goalscoring will be underway in only a matter of minutes.
Javier Hernandez Has a Man-of-the-Match Performance
Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez netted home both goals for Mexico against Honduras in their most recent World Cup qualifying match, and even against a strong United States defense, he'll likely find the back of the net in this one also.
The 24-year-old is a prolific goal-poacher and has a keen eye for goal.
Moreover, he is particularly dominant on the international stage—netting 29 goals in just 35 starting appearances for the Mexican national team. He has scored five goals in his last five international matches and should well continue that run with a dominant performance here.
If Hernandez can produce a goal, or perhaps even two, and continue to cause problems for the USMNT, he could well end up earning the man-of-the-match accolade on the night.
Look for a dominant performance from Hernandez in this one.
Mexico Continue Incredible Home Run
But perhaps the biggest question that everyone wants to answer is around who is going to emerge victorious, and by what margin that will occur.
For me, there can be no other answer than the home team.
Other than a meaningless friendly where key players were rested from both teams, the United States have never beaten Mexico in a professional fixture in Mexico. It's 79 years since they have been able to trump their opponents, and it looks likely to continue in this one.
Where the USMNT struggled away to Honduras, Mexico looked good, and El Tri should have walked away with a victory in hand. They opened up the opposition defense with ease and appear likely to do the same again here in a match that could have profound World Cup consequences.
I'd say Mexico build on their early goal with a couple more before the interval, before a stronger-looking United States saves some face in the second half with a consolation goal to take back across the boarder with them.
Final score: Mexico 3, United States 1
What are your predictions for Mexico-USA this Tuesday?
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