Neither Mexico nor Croatia will field their strongest possible lineups in Saturday's friendly encounter at the Los Angeles Coliseum, but that doesn't mean the summer showdown will be a match to miss all the same.
Croatia manager Ante Cacic has ample reason to rest his key men considering his side will face Iceland on June 11 in the latest leg of their bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Similarly, El Tri will play two World Cup qualifiers in the space of three days at the beginning of June—against Honduras and the United States—but not before they face Croatia and the Republic of Ireland in two friendly fixtures.
While neither team will want to suffer any untimely injuries heading into a busy summer, Saturday's Los Angeles encounter will also be a prime opportunity for both bosses to test out some of the rougher diamonds among their squads.
Read on for all the vital viewing information ahead of Saturday's clash, complete with fixture details and a preview of which players to keep an eye on.
Date: Saturday, May 27
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 a.m. BST (Sunday, May 28)
Venue: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles
TV Info: Fox Sports 1 (U.S.), Univision Deportes (U.S.)
|Mexico vs. Croatia Form Guide|
|Trinidad and Tobago 0-1 Mexico||Estonia 3-0 Croatia|
|Mexico 2-0 Costa Rica||Croatia 1-0 Ukraine|
|Mexico 1-0 Iceland||China 1-1 Croatia|
|Panama 0-0 Mexico||Chile 1-1 Croatia|
Giovani dos Santos, Mexico
Now behind only Rafael Marquez and Andres Guardado in Mexico caps accumulated among the current squad, Giovani dos Santos is beginning to take responsibility as one of El Tri's elder statesmen ahead of Saturday's Croatian clash.
And the versatile forward has been preparing in fine fashion while on duty with Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer, as illustrated by OptaJack (although his record has since improved to three goals in his last three outings):
The most recent of those strikes was a goal-of-the-season contender in Sunday's 2-1 victory against Minnesota United, posted by L.A. Galaxy's official Twitter account:
While Dos Santos' international record of 18 goals in 95 appearances for the national team isn't the most prolific, there's no doubting the winger's overall contribution to the cause and the resource he brings in attack.
The former Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur starlet also promises to benefit from manager Juan Carlos Osorio's reliance on squad rotation, a tactic that takes the spotlight off individual stars.
He told Latin American broadcaster TDN (h/t Goal's Jon Arnold):
"As the leader of this sporting project and this process, I have to make the decisions at the end, and I take that on. But I also understand that everyone has the right to express their opinion. Basically, we believe more in the collective than the individual, specifically that the individual has to be available serve the collective. If its the other way around, there's no chance of success."
Mateo Kovacic, Croatia
After a season spent on the fringes at Real Madrid, Mateo Kovacic can expect to make his return to prominence when he comes back into the Croatia fold this week.
Kovacic has played the full 90 minutes on just 12 occasions for his club this term, but that hasn't prevented the playmaker from boosting his renown as one of La Liga's most potent dribbling forces in particular, per WhoScored.com:
What's more, Yahoo's Andrew Gaffney has found immense value in the central midfielder, even though Real manager Zinedine Zidane has looked largely to other creative assets in Kovacic's stead:
With only a week to run until the UEFA Champions League final in Cardiff, Cacic may be under orders to ensure Luka Modric's involvement against Mexico is limited, but the same may not be true for his heir, Kovacic.
If El Tri's often suffocating tactics will allow, the 23-year-old has the potential to run rampant in the prime playmaker role, making this a potential chance to strut his stuff as a weapon on par with Modric, as opposed to his inferior.