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How will Mexico line up against Venezuela?

22:42 GMT+3 05/06/2019
Raul Jimenez Mexico Chile friendlies 22032019
Tata Martino is missing many of his top players ahead of the Gold Cup but still has plenty of options for Wednesday's friendly in Atlanta

Update: Jimenez leads line in Martino's XI to face Venezuela, Navarro gets first cap 

Mexico's summer begins Wednesday night with Tata Martino coaching just his third match in charge of El Tri in a pre-Gold Cup friendly against Venezuela.

The game is taking place in Atlanta, where Martino used to coach. But he may not have had as much time to catch up with old friends as he would've hoped. Injuries and withdrawals have left Martino's squad a bit thin.

Not at the Gold Cup at all? Because of withdrawal: Hector Herrera (preparing transfer), Jesus "Tecatito" Corona (dispute with Martino), Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez (birth of child), Carlos Vela (focusing elsewhere) and Javier Aquino (reportedly rejected approaches).

Because of injury: Hirving Lozano (knee) and Miguel Layun (renal issue). Marco Fabian and Ivan Rodriguez are fighting to be fit for the tournament, but ankle injuries are likely to keep both off the final list and definitely have them ruled out of tonight's game. While center back Carlos Salcedo is likely to make the Gold Cup list, he won't play Wednesday as he continues to recover from a knee issue suffered in the Liguilla.

All that means it's a bit of a headache for Martino to put together his starting lineup. As Goal does before each Mexico game, we're taking a look at three lineups the manager could select.

Check back an hour before kick off for Martino's starting XI and more coverage of the match on Goal. For now, the projections:


Mixing Gold Cup starters & potential reserves


This seems the most likely option for Martino against Venezuela.

Let's start at the very back. While Guillermo Ochoa is the No. 1 goalkeeper for the foreseeable future, Martino is likely to give a player like Jonathan Orozco a chance to get a some minutes and have a bit of rhythm in case he's needed during the Gold Cup. 

In the midfield, Andres Guardado may not be ready to go after a long season with Real Betis, but if he's healthy he would provide a nice counter-balance for Carlos Rodriguez. The Rayados midfielder is essentially filling Herrera's spot, but he has just one cap in his career. Edson Alvarez, who last Gold Cup ended up playing as El Tri's right back, can use the time in the midfield. Even though he's playing there more and more often, the center back/right back/midfielder hybrid player can use time to get accustomed to the position.

That's more than Leon right back Fernando Navarro, and it would be a deserved Mexico debut Wednesday after a superb Liga MX season. On the back line, Nestor Araujo and Diego Reyes could combine, though Hector Moreno may also slide in at the left center back spot. Martino started the Real Sociedad defender in the first friendly match he coached, and Moreno's form only has improved since then.

Up front, Raul Jimenez is a lock to start during the Gold Cup. Martino might want to bubble-wrap the Wolves forward to guard against injury, but competitive play will be good for him. That's even more true with Roberto Alvarado and Rodolfo Pizarro the most likely wing players. Neither is used to putting crosses into the box for a target forward. That's fine though, as Jimenez showed during the Premier League season he's far more than a lumbering No. 9. That said, building chemistry as a front three to start understanding what the other will do will help in the long term.


Trying out a 10


Martino may also consider using a formation that isn't his preferred 4-3-3. With so many absences in the attack, it could be worth trying out a different formation. While it adds an attacker, paradoxically, it also could help Mexico ease its pain - at least for this game. 

Pizarro could play as a 10, but Luis Montes also could come into the starting lineup. The Leon midfielder had a great season and could be pushing for a roster spot as well. He'd still have some defensive responsibilities, but with Alvarez and Rodriguez behind him could largely focus on making things happen in front of him instead of drifting back.

Martino also could move Alvarado to the other side and push up Gallardo, who came up as a winger and still plays there often. That would bring Jorge Sanchez into the starting lineup for the second time in his young Mexico career.


Best XI?


It probably doesn't behoove Martino to use this XI, especially with the manager sweating potential injuries with a squad that is a sprained ankle or two away from being in a real spot of bother during the Gold Cup.

Still, it's fun to think about what the lineup might look like when Martino prepares for the Gold Cup knockout matches. The center-back pairing of Moreno and Araujo gives El Tri two players who ended the year as starters for their La Liga clubs. Araujo often plays on the left, but the left-footed Moreno would be a better option there. A healthy Salcedo would change things, but with the Tigres defender still nursing an injury it's unclear how much of a role he can handle.

Up front, Pizarro as a winger will be something the Monterrey player might have to get used to even if he would rather tuck inside. With so many absences out wide, he seems like the top option with Alvarado. The 20-year-old can play as an interior midfielder, but he's done well in more attacking roles. The Gold Cup can give him a great chance to showcase that.