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Match preview: Necaxa vs. Santos Laguna

With just five games left in the regular season, both Rayos and Santos need all three points to strengthen their claims to a repechaje berth.

General view of the Victoria Stadium prior to the 10th round match between Necaxa and Tigres UANL as part of the Torneo Clausura 2023 Liga MX at Victoria Stadium on March 3, 2023 in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Game: Impulsora del Deportivo Necaxa S.A. de C.V. vs. Club Santos Laguna S.A. de C.V.

Date: Friday, March 31st

Time: 9:05 p.m. Eastern, 8:05 p.m. Central, 6:05 p.m. Pacific, 1:05 a.m. UTC

Venue: Estadio Victoria (Aguascalientes, Ags.)

Referees: REF: Edgar Allan Morales Olvera, AR1: Marco Antonio Bisguerra Mendiola, AR2: Manuel Alfonso Martinez Sanchez, 4TH: Abraham De Jesús Quirarte Contreras, VAR: Fernando Guerrero Ramírez, AVAR: Hector Salvador Solorio Arreola

Television: United States - None; Mexico - Izzi

Streaming: ViX+

All-time record: Necaxa holds the all-time record across all competitions with 27 wins to Santos’ 24, while the clubs have drawn 19 times. They also hold the edge in Liga MX play, with 26 wins to Santos’ 22 and 19 draws. The other matches were in the Copa MX, with Santos wining two and losing one to Los Rayos. In their last meeting, Santos beat Los Rayos 3-1 in Torreón on September 6, 2022 thanks to goals from Juan Brunetta, Diego Medina, and Leo Suárez while Alexis Peña got the lone tally for Necaxa. The last time they met in Aguascalientes, Santos also got the victory, winning 3-0 on goals from Juan Ferney Otero, Beto Ocejo, and Diego Valdés way back on July 23, 2021.

Harold Preciado of Santos Laguna reacts during the 12th round match between Leon and Santos Laguna as part of the Torneo Clausura 2023 Liga MX at Leon Stadium on March 19, 2023 in Leon, Mexico.
Harold Preciado’s five goals ties him for seventh best in the league.
Photo by Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images

Santos entered the international break on a low, losing 4-1 at León and finding themselves in a rather precarious position when it comes to making the repechaje. At 15 points, they’re only three points clear of a four team logjam angling for 12th place and the final spot with four weeks to go. The good news is that they can possibly get some separation from that pack with a win over Necaxa, who is currently in 13th place on basis of goal differential.

Santos has also reeled off four straight wins against Necaxa, and the team has had some real bright spots this season. They’ve been strong on offense, currently tied with León in fifth overall with 18 goals. Harold Preciado leads the team with five, while Javier Correa and Juan Brunetta are close behind with four each.

As good as they’ve been on the offensive side of the ball, Santos has struggled mightily defensively this season. They’ve allowed 27 goals this season, with only Mazatlán (30) allowing more. To make matters worse, Santos will be without center back Hugo Rodríguez, who picked up a red card against León. Santos will most likely revert to four in the back with Matheus Dória and Félix Torres as the center back pair.

Edgar Méndez (L) of Necaxa battles for the ball against José Ignacio Rivero (R) of Cruz Azul during the 6th round match between Cruz Azul and Necaxa as part of the Torneo Apertura 2022 Liga MX at Azteca Stadium on July 30, 2022 in Mexico City, Mexico.
Edgar Méndez is the lone player on Necaxa to score more than two goals this season.
Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

Necaxa meanwhile desperately needs points to make the repechaje sprint one they’re leading and not chasing. While they have gotten results in three of their last four, a 1-0 win against Mazatlán and two 1-1 draws against Querétaro at home and Juárez on the road don’t exactly inspire confidence. They also haven’t won at home in a month and a half, with their last victory at Estadio Victoria coming against Pumas on February 15.

Necaxa is slightly better defensively than they are offensively. They’ve conceded 16 goals on the season, tying them with América, Pachuca, and Atlas for eighth best in the league. They have struggled to score however, scoring just 14 goals, tying them with Cruz Azul, Xolos, and Mazatlán for 13th best. Edgar Méndez leads the team with five goals, however no one else has two on the season.

Santos has a real opportunity to pick up a win against a struggling opponent while on the road, but they have to play a smart game against an opponent who may be starting to feel the end of their season creeping in. If they can’t, they very well could find themselves chasing the postseason from the outside looking in.