Game: Club Pueblavs. Club Santos Laguna S.A. de C.V.
Date: Friday, February 7th
Time: 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 p.m. Central, 7:00 p.m. Pacific, 2:00 a.m. UTC
Venue: Estadio Cuauhtémoc (Puebla, Pue.)
Referees: REF: Marco Antonio Ortiz Nava, AR1: Jimmy Acosta Montesinos, AR2: Mauricio Nieto Torres, 4TH: Jesus Rafael Lopez Valle
Radio: 92.3 FM (Torreón/Gómez Palacio/Lerdo)
All-time record: Santos holds the all time record across all competitions, winning 26 to Puebla’s 15 with 21 draws. The only time the clubs have met outside of Liga MX play was a wild win by Santos in the 2014 Apertura Copa MX Final in penalties.The last time the clubs met, Santos beat Puebla 4-1 at TSM on August 10. Santos got a brace from Julio Furch and goals from Ulíses Rívas and Diego Valdés while Puebla got a lone goal from Matías Alustiza. The last time the teams met at Estadio Cuauhtémoc they played to a 1-1 draw on January 18. In that one, Pablo González scored for Puebla while Javier Correa got Santos’ lone goal.
Santos Laguna (1W 1D 2L) hasn’t had a good start to the season. They’ll look to take what little momentum they have on the road when they face Puebla (1W 0D 3L). Santos was only able to draw Pumas at home last week 1-1 in Liga MX play after holding on in Copa MX play midweek. The good news is that they’re still undefeated at home and held an opponent to under two goal for the first time all season. The bad news is that they had a lead and couldn’t protect it at their home fortress, and that’s allowed some doubts to creep in from the fanbase.
Santos can take heart from the positives however. Julio Furch finally scored a goal, even if it was a penalty. Substituting Hugo Rodríguez in for Félix Torres at center back seemed to add some stability to the back line, and if nothing else should help spur the young Torres to keep fighting for that starting spot. Manager Guillermo Almada also substituted in forward Eduardo “Lalo” Aguirre for midfielder Diego Valdés. Aguirre was able to help Furch maintain pressure on the Pumas back line, however they did miss Valdés’ play in the midfield.
Puebla has struggled mightily this season, with their only win so far coming against Atlas at Estadio Jalisco. That game marks the only time all season that a Puebla player has scored, with Cristian “Polaco” Menéndez getting the lone goal in the 31st minute. Puebla lost Lucas Cavallini to the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer during the offseason, and so far no one has stepped up to fill the void left by the Canadian striker.
Puebla has remained fairly solid defensively, allowing just four goals in their four games. Goalkeeper Nicolás Vikonis is one of the better goalkeepers in the league, and the center back tandem of Maximiliano Perg and Jesús Zavala might not be household names but are solid nonetheless.
Santos will need to be able to put up a good performance on the road. While playing against an offense that has struggled should help paper over some of the cracks on defense, the onus will be on the offense to produce against Puebla’s defense. It’s imperative that Julio Furch be afforded space either by pairing him with Aguirre (or Octavio Rivero) or by having wingers Brian Lozano and Eryc “Culebra” Castillo play more as inside forwards with Diego Valdés acting as a shuttler at the central attacking midfielder position.