Mexico will take on fierce rivals the United States in an all-important 2014 World Cup qualifier at the Azteca Stadium on Tuesday night.
Team USA has never beaten El Tri in Mexico during a professional match through the last 69 years, but will be looking to break that with a strong performance here.
If the USMNT are going to break their incredible winless streak in Mexico, then it's going to be down to certain key players to do that. Similarly, if Mexico are going to chalk up another win over their rivals and keep their World Cup dream alive, they'll need certain players to step up big.
Who are those players for both teams? Read on and find out.
Mexico: Giovani Dos Santos and Guillermo Ochoa
Whilst most of the focus for Mexico's attack will be on Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez, it is Giovani Dos Santos who holds the key for El Tri here.
Dos Santos looked out of place against Honduras, and struggled to showcase the attacking strengths that are definitely evident within his game. He went to ground far too easily and turned the ball over many times as a result—something which really hurt the Mexican attack.
If the Mallorca forward can find his feet behind Hernandez in the 4-2-3-1 formation and start to work well with the United striker as a result, Mexico will thrive.
Dos Santos can be a prolific passer of the ball with six assists and 2.1 goal-scoring chances created per game for his Spanish club this year. Which, on just 22.3 passes per game, is an incredible achievement from the 23-year-old that needs to be put to good use here.
The same impact could belong to goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who was superb for Mexico in their recent 2-2 draw against Honduras.
Having not started an international game in nearly two years, the 27-year-old showed tremendous agility and strength against the various efforts that Honduras threw at him. He almost even managed to keep out Jerry Bengtson's penalty, but the follow-up effort proved too good.
If Ochoa can showcase some of the solid domestic form he's shown for Ajaccio and the international form he showed against Honduras, Mexico will be in with a real chance. The United States have a number of quality attackers that will likely see plenty of chances—giving the star goalkeeper plenty of opportunities to show just how key he can be.
United States: Maurice Edu and Clint Dempsey
Maurice Edu might not seem like one of the key players for the United States, but the reality is that the 26-year-old midfielder could have a profound impact on the final result here.
Edu was utilized in a central defender's role when the U.S. beat Mexico in a friendly last August, and could be used again against El Tri here. Which, given the speed and skill that Mexico will bring in their attacking lineup, could be a very important thing for the United States.
DaMarcus Beasley and Clarence Goodson aren't the quickest guys in the world, and on the fast surface that the Azteca Stadium will provide, could find trouble. Thus, if Edu is used in either a central midfielder or central defender role here by Jurgen Klinsmann, he could provide that extra defensive stability and cover to ensure that their defense remains in tact.
The onus will be on Mexico to attack and score goals, so the U.S. could be getting through a lot of defensive work on the night—making Edu a potential game-changing player.
The same goes for Clint Dempsey, then, at the other end.
With Mexico likely to produce more of the attack here, Dempsey's ability to turn midfield into attack will be key for the visitors. For if he cannot provide that link up to the sticker—whomever that might be—then the U.S. will simply be gifting Mexico further opportunities to attack.
Dempsey showed, especially in his time at Fulham, that he is capable of finishing with even the slightest chance available, and he'll likely see a chance or two fall his way here.
If he can take them well, and perhaps even find the back of the net, then Team USA could very well be on the brink of history in this one. And if not, then El Tri could be on the brink of continuing their phenomenal run of form at home that sees the US fall behind them in the World Cup standings.
Demspey's role in this one is likely to be more of a central midfielder than anything else, and he'll no doubt have plenty of defense work to get through also. Yet if he can do that well, and spark the USMNT attack in the process, don't be surprised to see Deuce with big chances at the other end.
Who do you think the key players for both teams are here?
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