Pumas UNAM Vs. Santos Laguna, Apertura 2011: Preview

COLUMBUS OH - SEPTEMBER 21: The starting eleven for Santos Laguna poses for a photo before their game against the Columbus Crew on September 21 2010 at Crew Stadium in Columbus Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Sunday's early game throws up an excellent matchup between defending champion Pumas and Apertura 2010 runners-up Santos, also two of the better teams through the early part of the season. While Santos will be looking to bounce back from its first defeat of the season – a 3-1 reverse against Tijuana – Pumas will be looking to pull back ahead of Chivas, which joined the Mexico City side at the top with a 2-1 win over Monarcas Morelia on Friday evening.

Santos will certainly be up against it as the visiting team, having not won at Pumas' Ciudad Universitaria since March of 2002. Furthermore, despite a strong start to the season that saw Santos record comfortable wins over Pachuca and Atlante, the team has lost two straight in all competitions, a 2-1 defeat to Olimpia in the Champions League coming days before the Tijuana reverse.

Pumas, for their part, will be looking to get back on track ahead of their Champions League opener with FC Dallas. While the universitarios recorded an impressive 2-1 win over Monterrey two weekends ago, they were not able to breach a resolute Chivas defense, battling to a 0-0 draw at the Estadio Omnilife.

Neither side faces too many injury or suspension worries, though the influential Juan Carlos Cacho will have to sit out for Pumas through injury once more, leaving Pumas with a similar lineup to the one which faced Chivas. Eduardo Herrera will start up front supported by Paco Palencia and Martin Bravo, while Dario Verón will return in defense. Santos' attack is not one to take lightly, though, as Christian Suarez will lead the line along with José Maria Cárdenas and Oribe Peralta, the latter having scored his first ever Mexico goal in midweek against the United States. Daniel Ludueña will be one for the Pumas full backs to pay attention to, with the Argentine needing close monitoring due to his ability to orchestrate Santos' attacks.

History certainly favors the home side in this one, but it will be especially interesting to see how the Pumas defense can cope with a fairly talented attacking outfit that will present a more difficult challenge than that offered by Chivas. Similarly, Santos will need to tighten up at the back, as the team was particularly sloppy against Tijuana, and the defending champions are sure to pile on the pressure. Both teams play the game at a fairly high tempo, so even if there might not be an exceptional amount of goals in this one, the ability on display should keep the game interesting and engaging.

My expectation is that Santos will offer a good deal of resistance, and perhaps take an early lead, but Pumas will eventually come through as it looks to make first place its own. Pumas 2-1 Santos.

You can catch Pumas-Santos on Sunday, Aug. 14 at 1 p.m. EDT on Telemundo.

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