Game: Club Santos Laguna S.A. de C.V. vs. Cruz Azul Futbol S.A. de C.V.
Date: Saturday, August 6th
Time: 10:05 p.m. Eastern, 9:05 p.m. Central, 7:05 p.m. Pacific, 2:05 a.m. UTC
Venue: Estadio Corona TSM (Torreón, Coah.)
Referees: REF: Oscar Macías Romo, AR1: Michel Alejandro Morales Morales, AR2: Edgar Magdaleno Castrejon, 4TH: Aldo Ballesteros Barba, VAR: Angel Monroy Bello, AVAR: Mario Terrazas Chávez
All-time record: Cruz Azul holds the advantage all-time across all competitions, winning 34 to Santos’ 25 with 18 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. In their last match, Santos beat Cruz Azul 2-1 on a stoppage time goal from Diego Medina at Estadio Azteca on February 27. Harold Preciado had Santos’ other goal, while Ignacio Rivero scored Cruz Azul’s lone tally on the evening. The last time the teams played in Torreón was on August 1 in a 1-1 draw. Santiago Giménez scored for Cruz Azul, while a Diego Valdés penalty in the 81st minute leveled the score.
After a solid win at home against Atlas, Santos hopes to make it two in a row as they host Cruz Azul in a rare home stand. Because of how the schedule has played out, Santos has a game in hand against most teams including Cruz Azul and two games in hand against six teams at time of writing. Despite that disadvantage, Santos are in the repechaje zone with seven points after five games and can improve their standing with with a win at their fortress TSM.
The Atlas game proved that Santos can gut out a win despite not playing their best. After a lackluster first half, Santos came out swinging in the second half, getting a goal from Juan Brunetta to get the win. If anything, coach Eduardo Fentanes will want to see more consistency from his squad, hoping to have both halves of the upcoming match played with the intensity and dominance of the second half of the Atlas match.
Atlas was able to accomplish that feat last week despite missing team captain Matheus Dória, who was out with an ankle injury. They’ll need to do it again with out the the big center back, most likely using Hugo Rodríguez and Félix Torres between Omar Campos and Carlos Orrantia with four in the back instead of the three center backs they’d been using prior with Campos and Franco Pizzichillo as wing backs.
Whatever the defensive lineup for Santos, their jobs got significantly easier earlier this week when Liga MX leading scorer Santiago Giménez was sent to Feyenoord in the Netherlands. Look for Ivan Morales and former Santos player Uriel Antuna to get minutes up top with Ignacio “Nacho” Rivero and/or Christian Tabó at attacking midfielder, pushing up into the attack. Still, losing Giménez and his five goals is huge, since only Morales, Tabó, and Ángel Romero have scored at all for the team this season.
On the other side of the ball, Cruz Azul was able to add Ramiro Funes Mori to their defensive corps. His experience with teams like River Plate, Everton, and Villarreal, as well as the Argentina national team should be invaluable for a team that has given up nine goals in six games. Still, Cruz Azul has managed to compile identical 1-1-1 records at home and away while scoring and conceding nine goals.
This equilibrium will be broken one way or the other against Santos. Santos has been one of the best teams at home for a while now, and Torreón has broken teams much tougher than Cruz Azul, however Santos has looked vulnerable at home this season.