Mexico has to play one of their toughest game's in years against Panama. El Tri sit fifth in the Hexagonal general table, and a defeat would mean a goodbye to the 2014 World Cup.
Both teams have secured eight points, but the Panamanians are fourth due to goal difference.
Under the command of newly appointed Victor Manuel Vucetich, Mexico have to step up and get their act together to defeat Los Canaleros.
Vucetich called up an interesting group, which mixes youth with experience. Players like Rafael Marquez, who had not been considered by Jose Manuel de la Torre, and Miguel Layun, who has never played a Hexagonal, are some of the manager’s surprises.
Join me to see which footballers should get a chance to start this crucial game.
Guillermo Ochoa has proven to be in great shape. This season, the Ajaccio keeper has played 810 minutes with his club. He has conceded 12 goals and has 12 saves and 28 blocks to his count.
Ochoa has great reflexes, is very quick and communicates well with defenders.
Although Jose de Jesus Corona is a brilliant goalkeeper, he failed in the match between Cruz Azul and Atlas—he did not read the ball's trajectory accurately and conceded a goal—and he did it again in the last couple of games of the Hexagonal (Honduras and the United States).
Confidence-wise, Ochoa is going through a better moment.
Miguel Layun (RB): Last summer, Layun was hardly criticized by American fans. His performance had not been the best, and later, he was capped for the national team that played in the 2013 Gold Cup.
Layun played his heart out and earned a spot with the first team. Now, with Vucetich in charge, he has another chance to help the team from the right flank.
He is a very strong right-back, but he is also fast and creative enough to feed balls to the winger.
Rafael Marquez (CB): This 34-year-old is back to the national team after a year-and-a-half absence.
He currently plays for Mexican club Leon, where he has become a key player. Currently, the Panzas Verdes are the second best defense of the 2013 Apertura tournament.
Marquez is a world-class player that knows how to lead the defense. He will bring his experience to organize and give confidence to his teammates.
Jonny Magallon (CB): The last time that Magallon played with Mexico was in 2011—in a friendly against Serbia.
After nine years with Guadalajara, Magallon left for Leon, where he guards the center of the box along with Rafael Marquez.
He is very experienced and understands the importance of a match like this, as he played in the 2010 World Cup qualifier.
Jorge Torres Nilo (LB): He is the perfect heir for this position. The Tigres defender has appeared 34 times with El Tri.
Torres Nilo is very fast and knows how to help in the attacking zone. He is a very dangerous player when he goes all the way through the left flank and sends crosses to his teammates.
He appeared in the 2013 Confederations Cup and in the 2011 Gold Cup. In both tournaments, he had great performances and gave the team depth and scoring opportunities.
Giovani dos Santos (RAM): He will be crucial in giving the team depth. Dos Santos can bring his momentum with Villarreal to this match. He has scored four times this season with his club.
Dos Santos is a thriving force, but he needs to show his skills from the beginning to unbalance the rival.
It is also important that he passes the ball to the forwards or the other attacking midfielders.
Gerardo Torrado (CM): At age 34, Torrado is one of the most experienced midfielders in Mexican football, and that is why he is on the list.
Torrado will not pose a threat for the Panamanians, but he will contain their attacks. He will team up with Marquez and Magallon to hold them off but will have to feed balls to the flanks.
Lucas Lobos (CAM): This naturalized footballer has played 12 local league tournaments with Tigres in which he has scored 66 times.
Lobos is a very experienced attacking midfielder that can create goal opportunities but also score himself.
Christian Gimenez (LAM): He has been a key player for Cruz Azul, but he has a lot to prove with El Tri.
Gimenez’s main issue is his lack of fitness. He has not played a complete game since he was capped.
However, he can be very dangerous when he has the ball. He has a superb touch and can score from outside the box in the blink of an eye and in set pieces. He is also a game changer.
Oribe Peralta: He is currently the best Mexican striker in the local league. He has scored eight times in 10 appearances.
Peralta is a very complete player that can unbalance the defense, assist a teammate or score himself.
He is the only Mexican that has scored at the Estadio Azteca in this Hexagonal, against Honduras.
Javier Hernandez: Chicharito may not play every week, but he is still the man that scores on a regular basis.
Hernandez has scored twice in this Hexagonal, which is half of the goals that El Tri has so far.