Mexico national team to face Rakitic, but most Croatia stars head home

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The Barcelona midfielder is one of few players for The Blazers traveling to Texas for Tuesday's friendly against El Tri

DALLAS — Mexico's hopes of playing Croatia's best players in a Tuesday friendly took a blow Saturday with Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic traveling to Texas without several of his top stars.

Luka Modric of Real Madrid, Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic, Inter's Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic, Milan forward Nikola Kalinic and Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic all are returning to Europe, with Dalic happy to fulfill the wishes of their club coaches who requested an early return.

Ivan Rakitic, however, is traveling for Tuesday's game, even though the Barcelona midfielder played all 90 minutes of The Blazers' 2-0 defeat Friday to Peru in Miami.

Croatia still has several top players it can put out against El Tri, but Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio may be disappointed after he put a priority on the Tuesday contest, resting some of his stars like forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and bringing on Hirving Lozano and Carlos Vela for only the second half of Friday's win over Iceland.

The Europeans are likely to use a starting lineup with Gent goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic in goal, Real Madrid midfieder Mateo Kovacic in the middle of the midfield in a 4-3-3 formation and a Bundesliga-based front three of Andrej Kramaric, Ante Rebic and Marko Pjaca.

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Osorio has said in the build-up to the March matches that he viewed Iceland, which Mexico topped 3-0 Friday, as a team with a similar playing style to group opponent Sweden while Croatia plays in a way more similar to what Mexico will see against Germany.

The Croats also play in a way more similar to Mexico's usual style of play, something Osorio tweaked against Iceland with a three-man back line and typical fullback Miguel Layun moving into the midfield.

Croatia arrives to the Dallas area Saturday while Mexico flies from the Bay Area to DFW on Sunday night. The match will take place in Arlington, Texas, at AT&T Stadium with the kickoff set for 10 p.m. ET.

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