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Liga MX 2021 Guard1anes Final match preview: Cruz Azul vs. Santos Laguna

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Cruz Azul brings a 1-0 lead back to Estadio Azteca. Is that enough to end a 24 year drought?

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Cruz Azul v America - Final Torneo Apertura 2018 Liga MX Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

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

Date: Sunday, May 30th

Time: 9:15 p.m. Eastern, 8:15 p.m. Central, 6:15 p.m. Pacific, 1:15 a.m. UTC

Venue: Estadio Azteca (Tlalpan, CDMX)

Referees: REF: Fernando Hernandez Gomez, AR1: Alberto Morín Méndez, AR2: Karen Janett Díaz Medina, 4TH: Luis Enrique Santander Aguirre, VAR: Erick Yair Miranda Galindo, AVAR: Marcos Quintero Huitron

Television: United States - TUDN, Univision; Mexico - TUDN, Azteca; Argentina - Las Estrellas

Streaming: fuboTV (Subscription), TUDN En Vivo

All-time record: Cruz Azul holds the advantage all-time across all competitions, winning 34 to Santos’ 24 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 teams have met in the playoffs twice before; once in the 2013 Clausura semifinal where Cruz Azul advanced 5-2 on aggregate, and once in the 2008 Clausura Finals when Santos won 3-2 on aggregate for their third championship. Cruz Azul won the last meeting at the Azteca 2-0 back on July 25, 2020 thanks to goals from Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodríguez and Alexis Gutiérrez.

While he wasn’t the goalscorer in the match, Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodríguez continues to be Cruz Azul’s most dangerous scoring threat.
While he wasn’t the goalscorer in the match, Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodríguez continues to be Cruz Azul’s most dangerous scoring threat.
Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images

Cruz Azul went to the vaunted La Casa del Dolor Ajeno in Torreón and took a 1-0 lead over Santos Laguna, setting the stage for a tense Final match at the historic Estadio Azteca. In it, they’ll look to put to bed the curse of the cruzazuleada and finally get their first championship since 1997.

While they didn’t look outstanding during the first match, Cruz Azul was able to get some chances and settle in to a rhythm. Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodríguez had a couple of good opportunities on goal, and the one-on-one match ups between him and center back Matheus Dória were fantastic battles of strategy and physicality.

Luis Romo’s goal lifts a weight from Cruz Azul’s shoulders. They should be able to play a game that won’t force them to attack while navigating the devastating Santos counterattack. Cruz Azul has the momentum, an away goal, and 90 minutes in their building.

Juan Ferney Otero’s playmaking abilities along the right side of the pitch will be critical for Santos.
Juan Ferney Otero’s playmaking abilities along the right side of the pitch will be critical for Santos.
Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images

Standing in their way besides 24 years of missed opportunities and calls both close and not as close is a Santos Laguna side that hasn’t backed down from a challenge all season. Santos has struggled this season on the road, however they have also been able to perform under pressure and overcome adversity.

Santos looked good for large stretches of the first match, and they were able to create decent opportunities on goal. As the game went on however, Cruz Azul was able to close ranks centrally and force Santos to do most of their work on the outsides. Juan Ferney Otero and Ayrton Preciado played well, but the link between the wingers and forward Eduardo “Mudo” Aguirre and attacking midfielder Diego Valdés didn’t materialize as often as the team would like.

A 1-0 lead is far from insurmountable though. Santos is absolutely capable of overcoming this despite being on the road. They need to play for set pieces, where they have had a great amount of success this season, as well as take advantage of any opportunity they’re given. Cruz Azul hasn’t conceded many good chances this season, but they’re also not invincible.