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Match preview: FC Juárez vs. Santos Laguna

Santos takes their recent good run of form on the road to Juárez, which has been a fortress for Los Bravos this season.

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FC Juarez v Pumas UNAM - Torneo Clausura 2020 Liga MX Photo by Alvaro Avila/Jam Media/Getty Images

Game: Fútbol Club Juárez vs. Club Santos Laguna S.A. de C.V.

Date: Sunday, February 23rd

Time: 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Central, 5:00 p.m. Pacific, 12:00 a.m. UTC

Venue: Estadio Olímpico Benito Juárez (Ciudad Juárez, Chih.)

Referees: REF: Alejandro Funk Villafañe, AR1: Andres Hernández Delgado, AR2: Marco Antonio Bisguerra Mendiola, 4TH: Alan Enrique Martínez Vega

Television: United States - TUDN; Mexico - TUDN; Canada - OneSoccer

Streaming: fuboTV (Free trial + monthly subscription), Sling TV (Free trial + monthly subscription), TUDN En Vivo, OneSoccer (Free trial + monthly subscription)

All-time record: Santos has never lost to FC Juárez, winning three and drawing two across all competitions. The only time they’ve met in Liga MX play was last season when Santos won 3-0 on goals from Brian Lozano, Emilio Orrantía, and Adrian Lozano.

America v FC Juarez - Torneo Clausura 2020 Liga MX
Jefferson Intriago has been FC Juárez’ best player this season.
Photo by Agustin Cuevas/Getty Images

Santos Laguna () got a statement win last week against Tigres UANL (), but that was at home where they haven’t lost a regular season game since March. This week they’ll be on the road, where they’ve lost two of their three games this season, to face FC Juárez ().

FC Juárez plays with a 4-3-3 formation. Diego Rolán (out injured), Dario Lezcano, Ángelo Sagal, and Flavio Santos have been phenomenal offensively for los Bravos. In the midfield, Jefferson Intriago has been phenomenal. You could easily argue that he’s the engine that keeps the team running. The additions of William Mandieta and Martin Rabuñal have added much needed depth to the squad. Bruno Romo has also helped to strengthen the team’s defense all around.

Right now, the biggest question surrounding FC Juárez is how they will adjust without Diego Rolán. In their last league match without Rolan, they drew 1-1 against Monterrey but lacked serious creativity on offense. They did batter Dorados 3-0 in the Copa MX earlier this week though. To put it lightly, this is a completely different FC Juárez squad than the one that fast Santos last summer.

Jorge Pautasso has made a huge impact overall on the coaching staff as well. Los Bravos have gone from being a much more defensive squad to being more aggressive offensively throughout a whole match. Maxi Olivera has also been huge in the defense. Expect them to line up very similar to they way they did against Monterrey in terms of the lineup for Sunday’s match. Maybe the only thing that would be different is the inclusion of Flavio Santos in the place of Mauro Fernandez.

As far as play style, FC Juárez has been known for their high pressing and very aggressive style of play this season. It’s a style of play that really suits los Bravos and lets them take the match to their opponents. The aggressive attitude of the team has been the biggest difference between this season and last.

Santos Laguna v Tigres UANL - Torneo Clausura 2020 Liga MX
Eduardo “Lalo” Aguirre scored his first two goals in Liga MX play in last week’s 2-1 win against Tigres UANL.
Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images

Santos on the other hand has been able to overcome a slow start with a slight shift in personnel and tactics. In the beginning of the year, Santos gave young Félix Torres a nod at center back next to Matheus Dória. While Torres did well, manager Gustavo Almada swapped him out for the more experienced Hugo Rodríguez and the results have been fewer goals conceded and no losses. While not solely on Torres, do expect that switch to be a longer term change for Santos.

Another thing that’s helped relieve some of the pressure off of the back line is a more offensive mentality than the first three weeks. When they started the season, Santos used Fernando Gorriarán, Ulíses Rívas, and Diego Valdés in the central midfield with Brian Lozano and Eryc Castillo out wide and Julio Furch centrally in a 4-3-3. This often times left Furch alone and without much space to operate when he was able to get the ball. Even though Valdés wasn’t playing poorly, Almada switched him out for Eduardo “Lalo” Aguirre and changed the formation to more of a flat 4-4-2. This has paid dividends, with Castillo or Emilio Orrantía and Lozano able to still play out wide while Lalo and Furch create space for one another.

Santos is looking more like the superlíder Santos from last season than they did in their first three games, but there are still significant questions around their abilities to perform well on the road. They lost their first two games on the road by a combined score of 5-1 before getting a 2-2 draw at Puebla () that saw Los Guerreros both concede one and see a penalty attempt against them whistle over the bar in stoppage time. They need to work to ensure they play whistle to whistle and don’t take anything for granted. Juárez has been very good this season, only losing the season opener on the road against Chivas (). They’ve also put up 13 goals, just two off of Pumas’ pace. Both teams will need to be at their best in order to get a win out of this one, and it should be an entertaining game regardless.