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Match preview: Santos Laguna vs. Cruz Azul

Two of the league’s best teams over the past few seasons get the 2021 Guard1anes underway at La Casa del Dolor Ajeno.

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Santos Laguna v Pachuca - Playoff Torneo Guard1anes 2020 Photo by Jos Alvarez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Game: Club Santos Laguna S.A. de C.V. vs. Club Deportivo Social y Cultural Cruz Azul Asociación S.A. de C.V.

Date: Sunday, January 10th

Time: 8:06 p.m. Eastern, 7:06 p.m. Central, 5:06 p.m. Pacific, 1:06 a.m. UTC

Venue: Estadio Corona TSM (Torreón, Coah.)

Referees: REF: Mario Humberto Vargas Mata, AR1: Jimmy Acosta Montesinos, AR2: Jonathan Maximiliano Gómez, 4TH: Marco Antonio Ortiz Nava, VAR: Oscar Macías Romo, AVAR: Juan Joel Rangel Maya

Television: United States - FOX Deportes; Mexico - FOX Sports 2; Belize - FOX Sports 2; Costa Rica - FOX Sports 2; Dominican Republic - FOX Sports 2; El Salvador - FOX Sports 2; Guatemala - FOX Sports 2; Honduras - FOX Sports 2; Nicaragua - FOX Sports 2; Panama - FOX Sports 2; Venezuela - FOX Sports 2

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

All-time record: Cruz Azul holds the advantage all-time across all competitions, winning 33 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 July 25, 2020 when Cruz Azul beat Santos 2-0 at Estadio Olímpico Universitario. Hugo Rodríguez was sent off early and with the advantage Cruz Azul was able to get goals from ex-Guerrero Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodríguez and Alexis Gutiérrez.

Pachuca v Santos Laguna - Torneo Clausura 2020 Liga MX
Brian Lozano will miss at least a few more weeks rehabbing from a broken leg suffered in preseason before the 2020 Guard1anes tournament.
Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Santos opens 2021 at home against Cruz Azul, and both teams are looking to exorcise the ghosts of their 2020 Guard1anes tournament. Santos was able to beat Mazatlán 4-0 to get the home field advantage for the repechaje, however they fell flat against Pachuca, bowing out after a 3-0 defeat. Cruz Azul on the other hand suffered a 4-0 defeat of their own in the second leg of the Semifinales to bow out to Pumas on a 4-4 aggregate draw (Pumas was the higher seed so they went on to the Final).

Santos has many important players returning from last season, from goalkeeper Carlos Acevedo and center backs Matheus Dória and Hugo Rodríguez to midfielder Fernando Gorriarán and a host of young players looking to make their mark. They’ll also be getting Brian Lozano back from injury at some point in the season, although a broken leg suffered during the preseason of the 2020 Guard1anes still isn’t fully rehabbed.

Santos did lose Julio Furch and Brayan Garnica to Atlas during the offseason, and Josecarlos Van Rankin and Gael Sandoval left as well. Furch and Van Rankin’s absences will be felt the most, and it remains to be seen who can pick up the mantle of the team’s goalscoring threat without Furch.

Atletico San Luis v Cruz Azul - Torneo Guard1anes 2020 Liga MX
Ex-Santos Laguna forward Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodríguez lead Liga MX in goals in the last tournament with 12.
Photo by Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images

Cruz Azul also lost a big strong forward to Atlas, when Milton Caraglio was brought in to replace Furch, who will miss significant time with a broken foot. That’s really the only change from a team that was mere minutes from a spot in the Final and possibly ending the cruzazuleada.

Cruz Azul’s inability to overcome their inability to win the league since 1997 shouldn’t be misconstrued however. This is a good, solid, deep team that is now also ready to get back onto the pitch and end the 24 year drought. Jonathan Rodríguez lead the league with 12 goals, and Luis Romo was second in assists with five, but this team is much more than just those two. It’s also promising forward Santiago Giménez, young midfielders Roberto “Piojo” Alvarado and Orbelín Pineda getting guidance from older players like Elías Hernández and Pablo Aguilar who have been around and won titles with other teams. They will be dangerous.

Santos has historically been tough at home, while Cruz Azul has been tough everywhere. This should be one of the better games of the weekend even for fans of neither team.