Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez fit to lead Mexico against Trinidad & Tobago
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago -- Juan Carlos Osorio's Mexico side has ended a 44-year winless streak in the United States, a 23-year one in Canada and a 22-year drought in Honduras.
On Tuesday, Trinidad and Tobago is up in World Cup qualifying. It may only have been 12-and-a-half years and two winless games since El Tri secured a victory against the Caribbean team in a hot and humid Port of Spain, but this improving Mexico team is increasingly in the business of getting jobs done and goes into the game as heavy favorite.
Perhaps El Tri's biggest enemy is overconfidence, although Osorio said on Monday he believes that constant competition between players in the squad means it won't be a factor.
"I think that every game has it's own pressure," said Osorio. "Tomorrow we compete for three points to stay in first place [in the Hexagonal table]. The objectives are to qualify [for the World Cup] in first place. We have to keep on track."
In achieving that, Osorio has been given a boast by the news that Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, who leveled Jared Borgetti as Mexico's all-time goal scorer last Friday, is fit to start if required. The Bayer Leverkusen striker left the field in the 66th minute of the 2-0 victory over Costa Rica with a sore thigh.
"Fortunately, not only Javier, but all of the boys are fine," Osorio said. "He's ready, willing and wants to play. It is obviously a difficult decision because we know that he is great finisher and, aside from the record, he's conscious, he is here to contribute. He's a lot closer with everyone, he shares more and we appreciate that."
Osorio's rotation policy demands there will be changes from last Friday's fine performance against the Ticos, with Hernandez not a certain starter, despite proving his fitness.
The Colombian coach described Trinidad and Tobago as the "most athletic" team in the Hexagonal, which likely means a change in the goalkeeping position, with Alfredo Talavera set to come in for Guillermo Ochoa. The reason being that Toluca's Talavera is the better of the two coming out for high balls and Osorio has consistently changed goalkeepers in back-to-back qualifiers.
Mexico is likely to go with a similar 4-3-3 formation as against Costa Rica, with a physical Trinidad and Tobago probably set to field only one central striker -- Kenwyne Jones.
It would be no surprise if Carlos Salcedo slots in again at right-back after his good display against Costa Rica, with Nestor Araujo -- by far Mexico's best player in the air -- at center-back alongside Hector Moreno, with Miguel Layun or even Oswaldo Alanis at left-back.
In the holding midfield role, Osorio will surely opt for Diego Reyes or Jesus Molina, or even both if he judges Trinidad and Tobago's aerial threat warrants it. Ahead of Molina or Reyes -- assuming only one plays -- it looks like Orbelin Pineda will get his first official start for El Tri at 21 years old, with Jonathan dos Santos lining up alongside him in Monday's final training session.
Up top, Carlos Vela is likely to be on the right, Raul Jimenez on the left and one of Hernandez or Oribe Peralta as the central striker.
Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno, Hector Herrera and Carlos Vela all carry yellow cards into the Tuesday's game, although Osorio was adamant it wouldn't be a factor in selecting the starting team.
"We spoke with the boys and our position was very clear in that we have to contest each loose ball as if it was the last and be attentive," he said. "That factor will not count in whether or not a player is selected."
For the Soca Warriors, head coach Dennis Lawrence called for a "brave" performance from his players. The former Fulham defender said his team would be going up against "one of the world's best" teams and said the key for his side to take something from the game would be focus.
"The idea is to be bold tomorrow and try to go toe-to-toe with Mexico and make sure we stay involved in the game," said Lawrence. "We can't afford to allow Mexico to take total control of the game."
A win for Mexico would keep the positive vibes and momentum rolling into a busy summer, while Trinidad and Tobago's bid to reach a second World Cup would receive a major boost if it can pick up a point against what has so far been the Hexagonal's best team.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.