FIFA World Cup Qualifying Preview: Mexico v Panama
By Football News
Mexico boss Victor Manuel Vucetich knows defeat to Panama could effectively spell the end of his side's FIFA World Cup qualification hopes.
Both teams have endured difficult qualifying campaigns thus far, but it is Mexico who perhaps go into Friday's game in Mexico City under more pressure having made it to the last five World Cups.
Their poor form led to the sacking of Jose Manuel de la Torre last month, with Vucetich stepping in to take over for the last two qualifiers.
His first game in charge promises to be a tense one as Mexico look for their first win in qualifying since June.
Both Mexico and Panama have eight points from as many games, the latter occupying fourth spot in the final round of CONCACAF qualification as a result of having scored more goals than Mexico.
Three sides progress automatically, with the fourth-placed team facing an intercontinental play-off against New Zealand.
Honduras, who face bottom side Jamaica in their final match next Wednesday, have a three-point lead over Mexico and Panama.
Vucetich's men have only managed four goals in the current round, with Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez responsible for half of that tally.
Hernandez is likely to be the key man if Mexico are to take victory against Panama, while Villarreal forward Giovani dos Santos is another key threat.
Panama are attempting to reach the finals for the first time in their history, but will need to improve on recent performances if they are realise that ambition.
Julio Dely Valdes' side progressed to the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup back in July - when they were beaten 1-0 by United States - but have taken just three points from their last five qualifiers.
However, Panama did twice defeat Mexico 2-1 en route to the Gold Cup showpiece, securing wins in the group stage and semi-finals.
Colorado Rapids attacker Gabriel Torres scored five goals in that tournament and the onus will surely be on him as Panama aim to move closer to a play-off spot.