With Santos Laguna and Monterrey squaring off in the Liguilla, it was a good time to catch up with FOX Deportes’ Mariano Trujillo, who is usually on the broadcasts for both Santos and Rayados. Trujillo gave me some good insight on the matchup of these regional rivals, who are seemingly perfect foils for one another.
I started off asking if he thought either team had an advantage coming in, with Monterrey getting a week off while Santos shellacked Querétaro 5-0 in the repechaje.
“I think it’s funny, but the situation plays out good for both teams,” Trujillo said. He explained that for Santos, getting some players quality minutes was critical. “They had a couple of players that are coming back from injury, (like) Ayrton Preciado. it’s having minutes finally after long, long term injuries. and (Diego) Valdés is the same thing. So I think these games came at the perfect time for Santos, for those players to have some minutes and to find their best form going through to the Liguilla.”
It worked out for Monterrey he said because “they had the Concacaf Champions League, and a stretch with a lot of games in between. So I think that week off, it was good for them as well. Not just because of the fitness and and the rest part of the of the situation. But I think (manager Javier) Aguirre had enough time to fix things that they weren’t clicking in those games that they weren’t able to to get enough points.”
I asked how he thought the teams style of play would balance out, with Monterrey being very attack focused while Santos likes to be press and counter.
“When (Aguirre) arrived in Monterrey, he said that the first thing that he wanted to do was to fix the defense. They were one of the best in the Guard1anes 2021, and Santos; Santos is not going to change. We spoke with Almada and (he said), ‘This is the way I like to play. I know playing that way, we will be assuming some risk. We will learn from the past, especially against Monterrey. If we make a mistake, we know that they’re going to punish us.’ So they have to be alert with the counter-attacks, because I think Monterrey feels comfortable not having the ball because they have enough weapons to play in in different ways, and the breakaway will be one weapon that Monterrey can use against a team like Santos, that is going to go and apply high pressure and try to be intense pretty much the whole game. It can go both ways.”
“Honestly, I saw Rayados struggling with teams with good pace going forward with and without the ball. So this this can be a good combination of Rayados feeling comfortable without the ball and Santos being the aggressor. At least, this is how I see it in the first game. Depending on how this first game finishes, we’ll see probably a different story in the second one. But as for now I see Santos trying to take advantage of that intensity and dynamic that they have when when they play in Torreón, and that can be a struggle for Rayados because they have quality players, but they don’t have the same pace in the middle of the field. Celso Ortíz, (Matías) Kranevitter, they’re good, they’re intense, but it’s not the same pace as (Alan) Cervantes or (Fernando) Gorriarán, and so I think the middle of the field can be the key factor between these two teams.”
Finally I wanted to know who absolutely had to show up for either team in order to win.
“I think Vincent Janssen. If he plays, he can be an advantage for Monterrey. He’s very physical and (Matheus) Dória and (Félix) Torres which are the center backs that have been playing for Santos. They’re physical, but I don’t think they can’t compete in that aspect with Vincent Janssen. So if they want to play or if they try to play Vincent Janssen’s game, I think Vincent can can take advantage of that and he can be the player that would make the difference if he doesn’t play, I think Dória and Torres feel more comfortable, defending (Rogelio) Funes Mori. If that’s the case, I think Charlie Rodriguez will be the key player in the middle of the field. That creative player that will use the spaces, and and not carrying the ball, not committing probably to space but putting through balls for either the wingers, either Dorlan (Pabón), or Avilés Hurtado, whoever is playing in these positions, using the wide areas.”
As for Santos Laguna, “I like Gorriarán. I think he’s he’s the heart of the team. Without Valdés, he took over a different role of being sometimes a creative player. He’s been scoring goals, he’s been assisting, his going forward a little bit more than than before when he was playing with (Ulíses) Rívas. So now, I think with the adjustments that Santos did due to injuries Gorriarán feels comfortable and confident being the creative player. If it’s not Gorriarán, and if he plays, I think Diego Valdés is always a player that that can make a difference with any team and without a doubt, he can, he can make it happen against Rayados.”