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Match preview: UNAM Pumas vs. Santos Laguna

Both Santos and Pumas need a win, albeit for much different reasons.

General view of Olimpico Universitario Stadium during the quarterfinals first leg match between Pumas UNAM and America as part of the Torneo Grita Mexico A21 Liga MX at Olimpico Universitario Stadium on November 24, 2021 in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo by Agustin Cuevas/Getty Images

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

Date: Sunday, August 21st

Time: 1:00 p.m. Eastern, 12:00 p.m. Central, 10:00 a.m. Pacific, 5:00 p.m. UTC

Venue: Estadio Olímpico Universitario (Coyoacán, D.F.)

Referees: REF: Marco Antonio Ortiz Nava, AR1: Jose De Jesus Baños Caballero, AR2: Rene Ramirez Ayala, 4TH: Luis Alfredo García Rodríguez, VAR: Jorge Antonio Pérez Durán, AVAR: Oscar Macías Romo

Television: Mexico - TUDN

Streaming: ViX+

All-time record: Pumas holds the all time record, winning 32 to Santos’ 23 with 21 draws across all competitions. Their only meetings outside of Liga MX play were in 2020’s Copa MX matches which Santos won 5-4 on aggregate, winning the first leg 4-2 and losing the second 2-1. The last time the clubs met, Santos beat Pumas 3-2 in Torreón thanks to goals from Fernando Gorriarán, Harold Preciado, and an autogol from Leonel López while Pumas’ goals came from Arturo Ortíz and Juan Ignacio Dinenno. In their last meeting in CU, Santos beat Pumas 3-0 to clinch qualification to the repechaje on November 4, 2021, thanks to two goals from Diego Valdés and a goal from Omar Campos.

Edaurdo Aguirre of Santos gestures during the 9th round match between Santos Laguna and Leon as part of the Torneo Apertura 2022 Liga MX at Corona Stadium on August 18, 2022 in Torreon, Mexico.
Eduardo “Mudo” Aguirre co-leads Santos with two goals on the season.
Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images

After a thrilling come-from-behind victory at home, Santos heads on the road to face Pumas at the historic Estadio Olímpico. Santos came into the week in sixth place with 13 points and a game in hand on most teams in the league. The bad news however is that Santos has lost all three games away from home, scoring just one goal away from the friendly confines of Estadio Corona.

Santos however has shown at times they can contend with anyone. The team is getting goals when needed at home and from various sources; the leading goal scorers on the team are Eduardo “Mudo” Aguirre and the center backs Hugo Rodríguez and Félix Torres, each contributing two goals this season while seven other players have each chipped in a goal.

They’ve also been at times rather error prone on defense this season. This is compounded by Matheus Dória’s extended absence while dealing with an injury to his right ankle. Rodríguez and Torres are both good defenders but can be inconsistent at times. They’ll both need to limit the errors on the road, and a struggling Pumas team just might be the answer.

Dani Alves of Pumas looks on during the 9th round match between Atletico San Luis and Pumas UNAM as part of the Torneo Apertura 2022 Liga MX at Estadio Alfonso Lastras on August 18, 2022 in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
Dani Alves has played every minute of his four games but at times has looked lost with his new team.
Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Pumas has severely underperformed this season, entering the week in 16th place although in fairness they have a game in hand against most teams in the league and two against several teams ahead of them. They looked good during the first half of their match last week on the road against Atlético San Luis before blowing a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2. This level of inconsistency has put Pumas in a precarious position, currently out of the repechaje zone and with fans’ calling for the ouster of coach Andrés Lillini.

Pumas however can’t be written off just yet. Lillini has a good nucleus of players, with Juan Ignacio Dinenno up top and the newly added Dani Alves at right back. Dinenno has struggled this season so far, scoring just one goal and being benched to start the match against San Luis. The 39 year old Alves also hasn’t looked fully comfortable with Pumas yet, playing all 360 minutes in his four appearances after joining from Barcelona.

Both of these teams really need a win to help get them on the right track. Santos needs to prove they can win on the road, and doing so under the noon sun in CU would be a confidence-builder going forward. Pumas needs to show they can right the ship, using their home field to their advantage against an opponent that’s struggled on the road. While every contest matters in the short tournament setup of Liga MX, this one could be a defining moment for both teams and their ambitions in 2022.