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Liguilla match preview: Santos Laguna vs. Puebla F.C.

Santos and Puebla survived tough series to make it to the semifinal round of the 2021 Guard1anes Liguilla.

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Santos Laguna v Queretaro - Playoff Torneo Guard1anes 2021 Liga MX Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images

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

Date: Thursday, May 20th

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

Venue: Estadio Corona TSM (Torreón, Coah.)

Referees: REF: Marco Antonio Ortiz Nava, AR1: Miguel Ángel Hernández Paredes, AR2: Christian Kiabek Espinosa Zavala, 4TH: Eduardo Galvan Basulto, VAR: Carlos Ayala Cuéllar, AVAR: Oscar Mejia Garcia

Television: United States - FOX Sports 2, FOX Deportes Network; Mexico - FOX Sports 2, Claro Sports; Argentina - Claro Sports; Belize - FOX Sports 2, Claro Sports; Bolivia - Claro Sports; Chile - Claro Sports; Colombia - Claro Sports; Costa Rica - FOX Sports 2, Claro Sports; Cuba - Claro Sports; Dominican Republic - FOX Sports 2, Claro Sports; Ecuador - Claro Sports; El Salvador - FOX Sports 2, Claro Sports; Guatemala - FOX Sports 2, Claro Sports; Honduras - FOX Sports 2, Claro Sports; Nicaragua - FOX Sports 2, Claro Sports; Panama - FOX Sports 2, Claro Sports; Paraguay - Claro Sports; Peru - Claro Sports; Puerto Rico - Claro Sports; Uruguay - Claro Sports; Venezuela - FOX Sports 2, Claro Sports

Streaming: fuboTV (Subscription), Sling TV (Subscription), FOX Sports GO, Vidgo (Subscription)

All-time record: Santos holds the all time record across all competitions, winning 27 to Puebla’s 15 with 23 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, they played to a 0-0 draw in the final week of the season that saw Puebla go straight into the Liguilla while Santos had to play in through the repechaje. The teams have met in the Liguilla semifinals before, back in the 2001 Verano tournament. Santos and Puebla ended the series tied 6-6 but Santos advanced due to their higher seeding. They then went on to defeat Pachuca to earn the second title in club history.

Santos Laguna v Monterrey - Playoffs Torneo Guard1anes 2021 Liga MX
Juan Ferney Otero is injured, but could return against Puebla.
Photo by Jos Alvarez/Jam Media/Getty Images

It was just a couple of weeks ago that Santos and Puebla were facing off against one another at the end of the season. While Puebla rested, Santos gained confidence by pasting Querétaro 5-0 and then gritting out a 3-2 win over regional rivals Monterrey. Puebla on the other hand downed a hot Atlas team, setting the stage for the rematch and a slot in the Finals.

Santos is a dangerous team at the moment. They’re mostly healthy, and they may get right winger Juan Ferney Otero back for the series. Otero was injured with a grade one knee sprain during the first leg of the series against Monterrey, however he’s listed as being in rehabilitation for the injury so nothing is a certainty. In the event Otero can’t go again, Jesús Isijara did well to start the second leg against Monterrey and Andrés Ibargüen was also solid off of the bench.

Santos also doesn’t look like a team with any weaknesses at the moment. Even when they were headed toward elimination against Monterrey, they were able to keep their composure and get the goal from Roni Prieto to advance to this round. Manager Guillermo Almada has weathered the sturm und drang of series like these before, and it’s evident the trust the team has in him by their demeanor on the field.

Puebla v Atlas - Playoffs Torneo Guard1anes 2021 Liga MX
Despite scoring nine goals during the regular season, Santiago Ormeño has yet to score in the postseason.
Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Puebla meanwhile isn’t fazed at all by the pressure. They were able to contain Atlas who had been hot going into the series, knocking off Tigres and pushing Puebla to advance solely by their higher finish in the standings.

They too have a solid foundation of coaches and players that believe in the system they’re running. Puebla’s third place finish in the table is no accident, and they’re eager to prove that against any team that comes along.

Puebla can re-heat the strategy they employed against Santos during the final week of the season: frustrate by not giving up plays and fouling early and often. They don’t need to beat Santos, they just need to not lose. Santos is a counterattacking team and they’ll need to actually attack at some point in order to score. Puebla knows this and will try every trick they know to ensure they don’t allow Santos any opportunities.

Santos however has shown they can attack. Eduardo “Mudo” Aguirre is tied with Alexis Canelo for top goalscorer in the postseason with three, and Ayrton Preciado has two for Los Guerreros. Puebla’s only goal this postseason was an Anderson Santamaría own goal that put Puebla through against Atlas. If Santos can get an early goal, it’ll force Puebla to come out of their shell and attack.