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Match preview: Cruz Azul vs. Santos Laguna

A new look Santos heads to Cruz Azul’s new (temporary) home to kick off the 2020 Liga MX Apertura.

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Rafael Hernandez

Game: Cruz Azul Fútbol Club, A.C. vs. Club Santos Laguna S.A. de C.V.

Date: Saturday, July 25th

Time: 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 p.m. Central, 7:00 p.m. Pacific, 2:00 a.m. UTC

Venue: Estadio Olímpico Universitario (Coyoacán, D.F.)

Referees: REF: Fernando Hernandez Gomez, AR1: Pablo Israel Hernández Luna, AR2: Michel Caballero Galicia, 4TH: Iván Antonio López Sánchez, VAR: Arturo Cruz Hurtado, AVAR: Jorge Antonio Pérez Durán

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: Cruz Azul holds the advantage all-time across all competitions, winning 32 to Santos’ 23 with 16 draws between them. All but three matches were in Liga MX play: a two leg quarterfinal series in the 2010-11 Concacaf Champions League that Cruz Azul won 5-1 on aggregate, and a quarterfinal match in the 2017 Clausura Copa MX that Cruz Azul won 3-1. The last time the clubs met was on January 25, 2020 when Cruz Azul beat Santos 3-0 at Estadio Azteca. Cruz Azul got goals from Jonathan Rodríguez, Elías Hernández, and Luis Romo to kick-start La Maquina’s best season in recent memory.

Cruz Azul v America - Torneo Apertura 2019 Liga MX
Jonathan Rodríguez has been one of Liga MX’s best players over the past year, scoring nine goals in ten games during the 2020 Clausura.
Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images

After two very different offseasons, Cruz Azul and Santos Laguna will kick their 2020 seasons off this Saturday evening. Cruz Azul’s preseason was televised, giving fans the opportunity to watch the club get into form while winning the Copa GNP por Mexico tournament. Santos on the other hand had a lower key preseason, with their lone televised friendly a 3-1 loss to Monterrey. They did have a 3-2 win over Monterrey in an un-televised scrimmage as well as a 4-1 win over Mineros de Zacatecas and a 4-0 win over Tampico Madero which were also not televised.

Cruz Azul looked like they picked up where they left off when the 2020 Clausura was forced to cease due to the global pandemic. While they did face tough challenges from Tigres in the semifinal and Chivas in the final, they were able to find ways to win and seemed to get stronger and more cohesive every game. Ex-Santos forward Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodríguez has been in an unbelievable run of form, leading Liga MX in the abbreviated 2020 Clausura and bagging two during the Copa por Mexico including the winning penalty against Chivas.

Santos Laguna v Necaxa - Torneo Clausura 2020 Liga MX
With Brian Lozano out injured, the burden of scoring for Santos Laguna will most likely fall solely on Julio Furch’s shoulders.
Photo by Armando Marin/Jam Media/Getty Images

Santos on the other hand has lost a couple of key players coming into the season. Jonathan Orozco and Eryc Castillo have left Torreón for Tijuana, and Brian Lozano will miss the season with a broken leg. Santos has turned over goalkeeping duties to Carlos Acevedo, who had performed admirably when Orozco was injured or suspended over the past couple of seasons. Lozano’s spot on the left will be harder to replace simply because of the threat he posed. Look for newly acquired Gael Sandoval to get the nod, with Ayrton Preciado waiting in the wings.

This match will most likely come down to if Santos can show they’re a cohesive unit and mitigate Cruz Azul’s strengths. If they can get an early goal and limit the amount of space and time on the ball that Cabecita Rodríguez, Yoshimar Yotun, and Elías Hernández have they’ll be in a good position to be the first team since January 17 to hand La Maquina a loss. Otherwise, Cruz Azul’s attack could look to exploit Santos’ lack of chemistry and find weaknesses, especially in transition and on counterattacks.