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Match preview: Santos Laguna vs. UNAM Pumas

Both Santos and Pumas are trying to prove themselves as title contenders. They’ll have the chance to prove it tonight at Estadio Corona.

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Fans of Santos cheer for their team during the friendly match between Santos Laguna and Sporting de Gijon at Corona Stadium on July 16, 2023 in Torreon, Mexico. Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images

Game: Club Santos Laguna S.A. de C.V. vs. Club Universidad Nacional, A.C.

Date: Saturday, September 2nd

Time: 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 8:00 p.m. Central, 7:00 p.m. local, 6:00 p.m. Pacific, 1:00 a.m. UTC

Venue: Estadio Corona TSM (Torreón, Coah.)

Referees: REF: Fernando Guerrero Ramírez, AR1: Michel Alejandro Morales Morales, AR2: José De Jesús Baños Caballero, 4TH: Vicente Jassiel Reynoso Arce, VAR: Edgar Allan Morales Olvera, AVAR: Áxel Meza Méndez

Television: United States - FOX Deportes; Mexico - TUDN, Azteca 7

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

All-time record: Pumas holds the all time record, winning 32 to Santos’ 25 with 21 draws across all competitions. Their only meetings outside of Liga MX play were in 2020’s Copa MX matches which Santos won 5-4 on aggregate, winning the first leg 4-2 and losing the second 2-1. In their last meeting, Santos downed Pumas 3-0 in Torreón on a brace from Javier Medina and a penalty conversion by Harold Precaido back on January 14.

Matheus Doria of Santos reacts during the 3rd round match between Santos Laguna and Atlas as part of the Torneo Apertura 2023 Liga MX at Corona Stadium on July 13, 2023 in Torreon, Mexico.
The Santos defense is having a bit of a hard time adjusting to the new manager Pablo Repetto’s system, but have shown moments of where they look solid.
Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images

In their last outing, Santos took the lead against Tigres twice, lost it twice, and lost the match on a late-game stunner. In their last outing, Pumas took a lead against Tigres and never gave it up despite conceding late. The two teams will meet tonight at TSM, with both looking to make a further push toward the Liguilla.

Despite the loss Santos enter the week with eight points, good enough to be in ninth place. They’ve scored nine, which is good enough for sixth in the league, however they’ve conceded ten, which puts them in a tie for last place. In fairness there are a couple of teams who need to make up games, but after six games the picture of a team struggling defensively is starting to come into focus.

Part of the issue could be with the switch in managers from last season. Eduardo Fentanes preferred to play with a double pivot in midfield, allowing a central midfielder to drop back and help out the center backs when they got into trouble. Under Pablo Repetto, the midfield is playing up higher, leaving more space in behind. A prime example is Emerson Rodríguez getting more minutes this season. The 23 year old plays in more of an attacking wide midfielder role than either Aldo López, who got a lot of the minutes last season, while also offering a lot more creativity than López, Jair González, or Javier Correa. The greater focus on playing forward, not to mention the injury to Carlos Acevedo, means that the defense has to play an outsized role in Santos’ successes.

uan Ignacio Dinenno of Pumas reacts during the 6th round match between Pumas UNAM v Tigres UANL as part of Torneo Apertura 2023 Liga MX at Olimpico Universitario Stadium on August 27, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico.
Juan Ignacio Dinenno has just two goals on the season, both of which from the penalty spot.
Photo by Agustin Cuevas/Getty Images

Pumas meanwhile is pretty on par with Santos in every regard. Their nine points is just one more than Santos has, they’ve scored one less goal (8) this season while allowing one less (9) than Santos. Juan Ignacio Dinenno and César Huerta are tied for the team’s leading goal scorer with two each. While Dinenno struggling a bit offensively could be cause for concern for Pumas, they’re getting goals elsewhere when they need it, and sometimes that’s all you need. Over the past five years, Pumas has given Santos two of their twelve losses at TSM.

Both of these teams are good teams with the potential to go far in the Liguilla if things start clicking for them. The issue both may run into is that they haven’t always been able to get them to click, such as in the case of Pumas’ 4-1 defeat at Juárez two weeks ago, or haven’t been able to keep the click clicking, such as Santos’ 3-2 loss on Wednesday against Tigres. Not only will the three points from tonight’s game be critical, but also being able to put a bad performance behind you and put up a good one against a tough opponent.