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Match preview: Santos Laguna vs. Atlas

Two teams with a lot in common but headed in opposite directions face off in Torreón as Santos hosts Atlas.

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Santos Laguna v Tigres UANL - Torneo Clausura 2020 Liga MX Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images

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

Date: Sunday, March 1st

Time: 7:45 p.m. Eastern, 6:45 p.m. Central, 5:45 p.m. Pacific, 12:45 a.m. UTC

Venue: Estadio TSM Corona (Torreón, Coah.)

Referees: REF: Oscar Macías Romo, AR1: Jorge Antonio Sánchez Espinoza, AR2: Enedina Caudillo Gómez, 4TH: Juan Andres Esquivel Gonzalez

Radio: 92.3 FM (Torreón/Gómez Palacio/Lerdo)

Television: United States - FOX Deportes; Mexico - Fox Sports 2 Cono Norte

Streaming: fuboTV (Free trial + monthly subscription), Sling TV (Free trial + monthly subscription), FOX Sports GO

All-time record: Santos holds the all-time record across all competitions, winning 32 to Atlas’ 16 while the clubs have drawn 25 times. The clubs drew both their meeting in the 2003-04 Interliga and in the 2009-10 SuperLiga, with all other results being in Liga MX play. Their last meeting ended with a 2-1 Santos win at Estadio Jalisco back on August 2, 2019. Brian Lozano scored two for Santos, while Osvaldo Martínez’ converted penalty in stoppage was the consolation for Atlas. The last time the clubs met at TSM was all the way back on October 5, 2018. In that one, Santos got goals from Julio Furch, Osvaldo Martínez, and Jonathan Rodríguez en route to a 3-1 win. Omar González scored the lone goal for Atlas.

Santos Laguna v Tigres UANL - Torneo Clausura 2020 Liga MX
Eduardo “Mudo” Aguirre has scored three goals in his past two games for Santos Laguna.
Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images

After their first road win of the season, Santos Laguna () returns home to Territorio Santos Modelo to host Atlas (). Santos has lost just once since the start of 2019 at home, and Atlas’ current record doesn’t inspire confidence in Los Rojinegros becoming the first team to get a win there since Necaxa did it back on March 17.

Santos struggled early but seems to have made adjustments that have seen them come together in recent weeks. They’ve switched from a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 hybrid to more of a 4-2-2, dropping central attacking midfielder Diego Valdés for a pure forward in Eduardo “Mudo” Aguirre. Aguirre has opened up another point of attack for Santos, and while teams thus far have opted to focus on containing Julio Furch while leaving Aguirre to his own devices, this may change after “Mudo” has scored three goals in his last two games for Los Guerreros.

Another change that Santos made that has paid dividends is the switch at center back from Félix Torres to Hugo Rodríguez. The young Torres was given the starting job but after the club gave up seven goals in the first three games, Torres was benched for the more experienced Rodríguez. Torres will get an opportunity to impress manager Gustavo Almada this week as Rodríguez picked up a red card in the last match against FC Juárez () and will be unavailable for selection.

Atlas v Morelia - Torneo Clausura 2020 Liga MX
Martín Nervo is one of a six Atlas players who played for Santos prior to this season.
Photo by Oscar Meza/Jam Media/Getty Images

Atlas will also be missing a key figure on their defense, former Santos right back José Abella. Abella had played in all of Atlas’ games so far this season but will miss the match against his former club due to picking up a red card last match out against Pachuca. 18 year old Jesús Gómez was brought on off of the bench after Abella’s card, and may get the nod again in Abella’s absence.

Atlas still has many other players who played for Santos throughout their careers and may have extra motivation going into the match to prove that discarding them was a mistake. Jesús Angulo, Martín Nervo, Jesús Isijara, Mauricio Cuero, and Javier Correa also played for Los Guerreros, and all but Angulo have seen minutes for Los Rojinegros this season.

Atlas has some decent pieces, with regulars José Hernández, Ismael Govea, Edgar Zaldívar, and Ían Torres all 23 or under and having come up through the youth system. Atlas also picked up Luciano Acosta from D.C. United of Major League Soccer and Ignacio Jeraldino from Audax Italiano of the Chilean Primera División during the offseason, with the duo combining for three of Atlas’ goals so far this season.

The issue for Atlas is that unlike Santos they haven’t been able to make a shift and put it all together - at least not yet. Those three goals represent half of the goals scored this season while they’ve given up 12, and they’ve been caught in transition between the system they started out with under manager Leandro Cufré and the one that current manager Rafael Puente, Jr. is trying to implement. Cufré preferred a pragmatic approach that looked to take care of the ball and win through superior possession. Puente is the polar opposite, who did his best work with Lobos BUAP, opting to throw everything forward and try and win games without worrying about how many goals they gave up.