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Match preview: Pachuca vs. Santos Laguna

Two managers intimately familiar with one another will get re-acquainted with a trip to the Liguilla on the line.

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General view of the Hidalgo Stadium from ground level prior the 8th round match between Pachuca and Tijuana as part of the Torneo Clausura 2023 Liga MX on February 19, 2023 in Pachuca, Mexico. Photo by Agustin Cuevas/Getty Images

Game: Club Santos Laguna S.A. de C.V. vs. Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente

Date: Saturday, January 8th

Time: 9:10 p.m. Eastern, 8:10 p.m. Central, 6:10 p.m. Pacific, 1:10 a.m. UTC

Venue: Estadio Hidalgo (Pachuca, Hgo.)

Referees: REF: Adonai Escobedo González, AR1: Alberto Morín Méndez, AR2: Marco Antonio Bisguerra Mendiola, 4TH: Diego Montaño Robles, VAR: Erick Yair Miranda Galindo, AVAR: Brian Omar Gonzalez Veles

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

Streaming: fuboTV (Subscription), TUDN En Vivo

All-time record: Pachuca has a slight lead over Santos across all competitions, winning 25 to Santos’ 22 with 23 draws between them. Pachuca also holds the slight edge in Liga MX play, having 22 wins to Santos’ 21 and splitting 20 draws. The teams met when were both in the Segunda División A (now Ascenso MX), with Pachuca winning twice, Santos winning once, and the clubs drawing once over the 1985-86 and 1986-87 seasons. The clubs also drew 1-1 in the 2008-09 SuperLiga and met in the 2018 Apertura Copa MX tournament, with Pachuca winning once and the teams drawing once as well. In their last match, Pachuca beat Santos 4-1 in Torreón back on April 9. The last time the teams met in Pachuca, Tuzos got the 2-0 win on September 3, 2022 thanks to goals from Nicolás Ibáñez and Eduardo “La Chofis” López. The teams have also met in the repechaje, with Pachuca beating Santos 3-0 in Torreón during the Apertura 2020 tournament.

 Pablo Repetto (L), head coach of Santos reacts during the 17th round match between Cruz Azul and Santos Laguna as part of the Torneo Clausura 2023 Liga MX at Azteca Stadium on April 29, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico.
Pablo Repetto’s debut with Santos ended in a 3-2 loss to Cruz Azul in Mexico City.
Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images

Playoffs bring out clichés, however there are reasons why clichés ring true. Sometimes, all you need to do is make it to the playoffs. Teams do transform for the playoffs, and we’ve seen teams that eke into them come out on top when all is done and dusted. Santos hopes to throw another example of this on the pile when they head to Pachuca to take on Tuzos in the repechaje.

Santos eked into the little tournament despite finishing 13th thanks to Querétaro being ineligible to participate. They parted ways with coach Eduardo Fentanes after Week 16, bringing in Pablo Repetto to see if he can replicate the successes he’s had in Ecuador and Uruguay. Repetto had a bit of rocky first game, losing 3-2 to Cruz Azul in a score line that flattered Santos a bit, however getting it that close might have been exceeded the expectations of some.

Santos however is playing with house money at this point, and that could be their biggest strength. Since not much is expected from a team that made it in on a technicality with a coach that still hasn’t managed a home game and won’t until next season, what do they have to lose? There is quality in the squad from front to back, and if Repetto can find the key to unlocking it there’s no telling what the team could accomplish.

Guillermo Almada, coach of Pachuca reacts prior the 6th round match between Pachuca and Chivas as part of the Torneo Clausura 2023 Liga MX at Hidalgo Stadium on February 11, 2023 in Pachuca, Mexico.
Pachuca manager Guillermo Almada has a history with Santos Laguna, as well as their new manager Pablo Repetto.
Photo by Agustin Cuevas/Getty Images

But “if” is doing a lot of work in that sentence. In Santos’ way lies defending champions Pachuca. At the helm is former Santos manager Guillermo Almada, who has beaten Santos in two of the three games he’s managed against his old team, including a 4-1 beating administered in Torreón earlier this season. Almada’s team is ruthless, and will be a tall task.

The two managers know one another well: Repetto managed Almada when they were at Fénix in Uruguay, and they’ve squared off against one another numerous times, the first being Almada’s Progreso drawing Repetto’s Cerro back in 2008 and the most recent being in 2019 when Almada’s Barcelona S.C. drew Repetto’s LDU Quito 1-1 in Ecuador’s Clásico Nacional a couple of weeks before Almada made the jump to Santos.

Pachuca has had their eyes on a repeat of last season, and Almada missing out on the Mexican National Team job may provide him with extra motivation to get the double. Santos meanwhile will want to put some sort of positive ending on what has been an otherwise frustrating season, and getting revenge for the 4-1 loss earlier in the season may be the salve they need.