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Match preview: Santos Laguna vs. Mazatlán FC

Liga MX returns from the international break with Santos hosting Mazatlán in the play-in round.

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Detail of the bench area at Estadio Corona prior the 16th round match between Santos Laguna and Toluca as part of the Torneo Apertura 2023 Liga MX at Corona Stadium on November 5, 2023 in Torreon, Mexico. Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images

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

Date: Thursday, November 23rd

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

Venue: Estadio Corona TSM (Torreón, Coah.)

Referees: REF: Fernando Guerrero Ramírez, AR1: Michel Alejandro Morales Morales, AR2: Marco Antonio Bisguerra Mendiola, 4TH: Oscar Macías Romo, VAR: Jorge Antonio Pérez Durán, AVAR: José De Jesús Baños Caballero

Television: United States - FOX Sports 2, FOX Deportes; Mexico - TUDN

Streaming: fuboTV (Subscription), Sling TV (Subscription), FOX Sports app, ViX (Subscription)

All-time record: Santos and Mazatlán have met seven times before, with Santos winning four to Mazatlán’s two, with the club playing to one draw. The last time they met, Mazatlán beat Santos at El Kraken 3-1 back on November 1 on goals from Facundo Almada, Luis Amarillo, and David Colman while Santos’ lone goal came from Harold Preciado. The last time they met in Torreón was back on October 2, 2022 when Santos beat Los Cañoneros 3-0 with a brace from Javier Correa and a penalty from Fernando Gorriarán.

Harold Preciado and Juan Brunetta of Santos celebrates after scoring the team’s first goal during the during the 15th round match between Mazatlan FC and Santos Laguna as part of the Torneo Apertura 2023 Liga MX at Kraken Stadium on November 01, 2023 in Mazatlan, Mexico.
Harold Preciado (left) lead Liga MX with 11 goals while Juan Brunetta (right) lead the league with 11 assists.
Photo by Sergio Mejia/Getty Images

Heading into the final week, both Santos and Mazatlán needed to win to advance to the play-in round. Mazatlán beat Toluca at home to punch their ticket, and Santos got a win on the road against a strong San Luis side to get in. As the adage goes, anything can happen in the playoffs, and this is especially true of a league as unpredictable as Liga MX.

Santos comes into the match having tied for third best offense in the league, their 31 goals equaling San Luis and sitting them one behind Tigres. Harold Preciado won the league’s golden boot with 11 goals, and Juan Brunetta’s 11 assists lead the league as well. As dangerous as Santos is on offense, their defense was tied with Juárez for last in the league, allowing 34 goals all season long. The defense has been plagued by injuries, with Matheus Dória missing most of the season and Hugo Rodríguez injuring himself in Week 16’s match against Toluca.

Josue Colman, Edgar Barcenas and Luis Amarilla of Mazatlán celebrate the third goal of the team during the 15th round match between Mazatlán FC and Santos Laguna as part of the Torneo Apertura 2023 Liga MX at Kraken Stadium on November 01, 2023 in Mazatlan, Mexico.
In their last meeting, Luis Amarilla (right) scored his fourth goal of the season as Mazatlán beat Santos 3-1.
Photo by Sergio Mejia/Getty Images

Mazatlán meanwhile was a lot more balanced, coming in at seventh place offensively by scoring 25 on the season while finishing tied for twelfth defensively after conceding 27. Ake Loba was the club’s leading goalscorer on the season with six despite picking up a gruesome injury in Week 14. Luis Amarilla’s and Josue Colman’s four and three goals respectively may not stack up against flashier numbers, but both scored in the win against Santos earlier in the season when it counted.

Santos will need to work hard to break down Mazatlán’s defense, but they have the tools to do it. They’ll need to be cognizant of Mazatlán’s ability to counter however, and provide support to Félix Torres and Roni Prieto along the back line. Santos’ home field advantage also can’t be understated; while not the impenetrable fortress it once was, it’s still a tough place to play with Santos picking up 16 out of 24 possible points at home. Mazatlán meanwhile picked up just 8 out of 24 possible points on the road this past season, however it is the playoffs, and this is Liga MX after all.