How will Mexico line up against Belgium?
Goal takes a look at how El Tri could start against Belgium in their first friendly after locking up World Cup qualification
The result of Mexico's friendly Friday against Belgium won't matter much to Juan Carlos Osorio. The manager wants to win, of course. Topping a team as prestegious as Belgium would be welcome for both Osorio and Mexico fans.
Far more important, though, is how his team plays. This will be an excellent opportunity for Mexico to measure up where it's at ahead of the World Cup finals next summer and see which areas still need work. We got a hint of some of that this summer at the Confederations Cup, and Osorio learned lessons as well. As catastrophic as the 7-0 defeat to Chile at the Copa America Centenario was, Osorio learned and changed from it and Mexico has been better for it. He'll have done the same after going out to Germany.
Let's take a look at how that may manifest itself Friday:
Two deep midfielders
In Mexico's other high-profile loss, the team has been overrun in the midfield. This is not an alignment Osorio uses often, but he may need to provide more cover to a defense that too often has been wanting when squaring up against top-level attacks.
That's something Belgium definitely boasts, so pairing Andres Guardado and Diego Reyes together in defensive midfield and moving Hector Herrera out of the middle farther forward could make sense.
This, much to Mexico's frustration, may be the best back four it can offer. Miguel Layun and Hector Moreno have experience on the left but Nestor Araujo and Carlos Salcedo have plenty to prove on the right. Osorio also could put Salcedo in at center back — he's been playing as the RCB in a back three with Eintracht Frankfurt — and use Layun, Reyes or Edson Alvarez as right back.
On the wings, Hirving Lozano looks to be a sure starter after Jesus "Tecatito" Corona had to leave camp because of a personal tragedy. Giovani dos Santos could be given a look on the other side, but Carlos Vela seems more likely even if he isn't seeing regular minutes at Real Sociedad.
Go with what you know
This is essentially what Mexico rolled with during most of World Cup qualification and at the Confederations Cup. The concern would be how Herrera performs in the midfield and if enough protection is provided for Moreno and Reyes at center back and Salcedo on the right-hand side of defense.
A bit of a twist
This isn't all that much different than the other two permutations, but gets Alvarez onto the field. The 20-year-old has impressed when playing for Mexico but after joining the team at the Confederations Cup only for training is yet to see top-level action. Poland might be a better fit for the Club America man to get a start, but it's not unthinkable that he'd get tossed in the fire to see how he stacks up against a player like Eden Hazard.
In the midfield, Guardado has been freed up to get forward a bit more in a more similar role to what he's currently playing with Real Betis. Again, Reyes would be asked to sit back and aid Moreno and Araujo, dropping between them similar to what he'd do with a five-man back line. It might be needed with Belgium's attacking strength.