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Liguilla match preview: Toluca vs. Santos Laguna

Toluca hosts a well-rested Santos Laguna in the first match of the Liguilla quarterfinals.

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Liga MX official ball is displayed prior the 17th round match between Toluca and Queretaro as part of the Torneo Apertura 2022 Liga MX at Nemesio Diez Stadium on October 02, 2022 in Toluca, Mexico. Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

Game: Deportivo Toluca Fútbol Club S.A. de C.V. vs. Club Santos Laguna S.A. de C.V.

Date: Thursday, October 13th

Time: 8:06 p.m. Eastern, 7:06 p.m. Central, 5:06 p.m. Pacific, 12:06 a.m. UTC

Venue: Estadio Nemesio Díez (Toluca, Edomex.)

Referees: REF: Diego Montaño Robles, AR1: Jose Ibrahim Martinez Chavarria, AR2: Jose De Jesus Baños Caballero, 4TH: Daniel Quintero Huitrón, VAR: Guillermo Pacheco Larios, AVAR: Michel Ricardo Espinoza Avalos

Television: United States - TUDN; Mexico - TUDN, Televisa

Streaming: fuboTV (Subscription), TUDN En Vivo

All-time record: Toluca holds the all time record across all competitions, winning 34 games to Santos’ 29, with 24 draws between the clubs. The clubs have only met outside of Liga MX on three occasions, with Santos winning their meeting in the 2003-04 Interliga 2-0, Santos beating Toluca 2-1 and Toluca beating Santos 2-0 in the 2018 Copa MX Apertura tournament. The last time the clubs met Toluca beat Santos 2-1 at Nemesio Díez on goals by Leonardo Fernández and Jordan Sierra while Santos’ lone goal was scored by Hugo Rodríguez.

Matheus Doria of Santos celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal during the 5th round match between Santos Laguna and America as part of the Torneo Grita Mexico C22 Liga MX at Corona Stadium on February 12, 2022 in Torreon, Mexico.
For the first time since Week 4, Santos center back and captain Matheus Dória will be fit for selection.
Photo by Jos Alvarez/Jam Media/Getty Images

After a week and a half off, Santos finally gets back in action as they head to Nemesio Díez to face Toluca in the opening round of the Liguilla. Toluca beat FC Juárez 3-0 to advance from the repechaje on Sunday, October 9.

The good news for Santos is that the club almost has a clean bill of health, meaning that captain and center back Matheus Dória as well as for the first time this season right winger Ayrton Preciado could be available for selection. Only Roni Prieto is listed as injured with a grade one sprain on his left knee, and no one will miss the match because of yellow card accumulation, red cards, or other suspensions. All systems are go.

It will however be interesting to see how Eduardo Fentanes has positioned the club after such a long layoff. The extra time to get mostly everyone healthy is good, but training and practices only do so much. Playing at altitude in Toluca may also be a factor, which is over twice as elevated over sea level than Torreón.

Jean Meneses of Toluca looks on during the 15th round match between Mazatlan FC and Toluca as part of the Torneo Apertura 2022 Liga MX at Kraken Stadium on September 16, 2022 in Mazatlan, Mexico.
Jean Meneses lead Toluca with seven goals during the regular season, roughly one-quarter of the team’s total.
Photo by Sergio Mejia/Getty Images

Toluca meanwhile come in unbeaten in their last four and having won their last two by a combined score of 7-1. They lost only once at home this past season, a 4-1 loss at the hands of Pachuca on August 28. Over the course of the regular season, Toluca scored 27 goals and allowed 23, both of which were in the top half of the league.

Two-thirds of those goals however game from just three players, with Jean Meneses scoring seven goals on the season, Camilo Savnezzo scoring six, and Leonardo Fernández contributing five. Neither Meneses nor Fernández scored against Juárez however, with Sanvezzo, Carlos González, and Marcel Ruiz each notching one in the win. Toluca has the firepower to compete with anyone, at least in theory. González only contributed only one goal during the regular season, a career low for the striker who will be 30 in February.

Toluca has looked good lately, but Santos will be their toughest test in a while. Nemesio Díez is always a tough place to play for visiting opponents, but Santos has been playing well on the road as well as being virtually indestructible at home. It should be an entertaining start to a good series.