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Match preview: Cruz Azul vs. Santos Laguna

Santos needs to give new manager Pablo Repetto his first win in Liga MX if they’re going to make the repechaje. In their way is Tuca Ferretti and Cruz Azul.

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Ricardo Ferretti, coach of Cruz Azul looks on prior the 15th round match between Cruz Azul and America as part of the Torneo Clausura 2023 Liga MX at Azteca Stadium on April 15, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Game: Club de Fútbol Cruz Azul vs. Club Santos Laguna S.A. de C.V.

Date: Saturday, April 29th

Time: 11:05 p.m. Eastern, 10:05 p.m. Central, 8:05 p.m. Pacific, 3:05 a.m. UTC

Venue: Estadio Azteca (Tlalpan, D.F.)

Referees: REF: Luis Enrique Santander Aguirre, AR1: Michel Alejandro Morales Morales, AR2: Edgar Magdaleno Castrejon, 4TH: Maximiliano Quintero Hernández, VAR: Jorge Antonio Pérez Durán, AVAR: Iván Antonio López Sánchez

Television: United States - TUDN, Univision; Mexico - TUDN, Canal 5 Televisa

Streaming: fuboTV (Subscription), TUDN En Vivo

All-time record: Cruz Azul holds the advantage all-time across all competitions, winning 34 to Santos’ 26 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. The last time the teams met, Santos won 4-0 in Torreón on August 6, 2022 thanks to goals from Javier Correa, Hugo Rodríguez, Eduardo “Mudo” Aguirre, and Carlos Orrantia. In their last match in Mexico City, Santos beat Cruz Azul 2-1 on a stoppage time goal from Diego Medina at Estadio Azteca on February 27, 2022. Harold Preciado had Santos’ other goal, while Ignacio Rivero scored Cruz Azul’s lone tally on the evening.

Pablo Repetto coach of Nacional gestures during a match between Nacional and Danubio as part of the Torneo Clausura 2022 at Gran Parque Central on October 23, 2022 in Montevideo, Uruguay.
New manager Pablo Repetto takes over a Santos team that has won one in their last five, giving up eleven goals while scoring just four.
Photo by Agencia Gamba/Getty Images

The message for Santos is simple: win, and you’re in.

Despite a poor performance last week, Santos is still in the driver’s seat as far as making hte repechaje. A win last week would have clinched that and put them up to eighth place; instead they allowed two goals in stoppage time and lost 2-0 to Querétaro and now sit just one point clear of 12th place Pumas and 13th place San Luis, the difference between post-season and off-season for those teams currently being the second tie-breaker of goals scored.

It was also the last game with Eduardo Fentanes in charge in Torreón, who was dismissed with Pablo Repetto brought in as his replacement. Repetto has a good pedigree, taking Ecuador’s Independiente del Valle to the 2016 Copa Libertadores Final where they lost to Colombian side Atlético Nacional. He also found success at LDU Quito and recently won the Uruguayan Primera División with Nacional. At Santos, Repetto has some good pieces at his disposal, but it will be challenging to say the least to institute anything meaningful just four days after being announced.

Ramiro Funes Mori of Cruz Azul looks on during the 16th round match between Chivas and Cruz Azul as part of the Torneo Clausura 2023 Liga MX at Akron Stadium on April 22, 2023 in Zapopan, Mexico.
Cruz Azul has relied on their defense, but they’ll be without Ramiro Funes Mori for the match against Santos Laguna.
Photo by Alfredo Moya/Jam Media/Getty Images

Cruz Azul also has a new manager, and while Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti started things off well Cruz Azul are winless in their last three including two straight losses to archrivals América and Chivas. Cruz Azul are guaranteed a spot in the repechaje thanks to the Atlas-San Luis matchup, but they still will want to win to get as high a seeding as possible and help ensure home field advantage in the round.

Despite the defeats, Cruz Azul’s strength is in their defense, which has allowed 20 goals this season, sitting them tied with Querétaro for sixth place. They’ll be missing Ramiro Funes Mori, who was sent off with two yellow cards he picked up in stoppage in the loss to Chivas. They will however still have Jesús Corona in goal, who at 42 years young is still a formidable goalkeeper.

Cruz Azul’s offense has sputtered however, scoring just 18 goals on the season, which is tied with Mazatlán for twelfth in the league. Former Santos forward Uriel Antuna leads the team with five goals, however no one else has more than two in the 16 games this season. As a team, La Maquina has only scored more than two goals once this season, in a 3-1 win at Puebla.

If nothing else, getting a look at what Pablo Repetto will try and do with Santos should be interesting. Their defensive woes are well-documented, however Repetto has three really good center backs and a super-talented goalkeeper to work with.