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Club Tijuana Vs. Santos Laguna, Clausura 2012: Preview, Battle to Stay atop the Table

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COLUMBUS OH - SEPTEMBER 21:  Oribe Peralta #24 of Santos Laguna heads the ball away from Andy Iro #6 of the Columbus Crew on September 21 2010 at Crew Stadium in Columbus Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS OH - SEPTEMBER 21: Oribe Peralta #24 of Santos Laguna heads the ball away from Andy Iro #6 of the Columbus Crew on September 21 2010 at Crew Stadium in Columbus Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Surprising outfit Club Tijuana will play Santos Laguna Sunday (3 pm ET, Azteca America). After three matches in the 2012 Clausura, three clubs sit at the top of the table: Toluca, Club Tijuana, and Santos Laguna. While Santos played in the 2011 Apertura final, the placement of Toluca and particularly Tijuana, is quite surprising. The Xolos were expected to be mired in a relegation battle this tournament, but instead they seem to be legitimate liguilla contenders. Likewise, Santos have high hopes for their title chances this season, and will be looking to remain among the league's elite.

Tijuana is coming off a triumphant 2-0 victory over Chivas last weekend, a result so humiliating to the rojiblanco that coach Fernando Quirarte resigned immediately after the match. The Xolos seem to have gotten the hang of the Primera. Jose Sand has started scoring the goals expected of him when the club was promoted to the first division, and the addition of Duvier Riascos has really given the club a dynamic talent up top that has frustrated opposing defenders. Another recent addition, Edgar Castillo, has played well on the left side of defense, and the defense as a unit has become much tighter in the back. With the potent attack of Santos, the Xolos will have to maintain concentration Sunday for a full 90 minutes.

Santos are in a terrific position at this point in the season, and considering their talent, it is not a surprise they are tied for first. Coming off a 1-0 win over Jaguares last weekend, Santos are going to feel confident about their chances on the road. Emerging star Oribe Peralta is coming off his golazo for the Mexican national team in their midweek match against Venezuela, and Darwin Quintero always has the potential to surprise opponents.

Defensively, they have only conceded one goal so far this season, and their stability on the backline and with goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez will make goals a tall task for Tijuana. Expect a tight match, and I think Santos will have just enough quality to edge Tijuana Sunday.

Tijuana Injuries/Suspensions: Ismail Iniguez (injured)

Santos Injuries/Suspensions: None