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Liga MX is a highly competitive league, but now and then, there’s a game that appears to have a clear winner, and this is one of them. Monterrey goes into this as overwhelming favorites, as the odds table demonstrates.
Monterrey has lost just two matches this season and is playing this tie at home against a Santos Laguna side that have been all over the place defensively this season. Their 4-1 loss to Pachuca last week sums up their dysfunction this season – they leave just far too many gaps between the lines and are one of the easiest sides to play against because they give every opponent a chance.
Monterrey will almost certainly win this match: the question is by how much?
Monterrey, unsurprisingly, have the better head-to-head record. They’ve won 10, drawn 10, and lost seven of their 27 games against Santos Laguna. However, Santos Laguna came out on top in the last league meeting between the two sides back in July 2022.
This was one of the best Liga MX games of 2022, with Santos Laguna winning the match 4-3. Monterrey’s Funes Mori kicked things off with a 17th-minute strike, and Rodrigo Aguirre made it 2-0 four minutes later. Fernando Gorriaran opened Santos Laguna’s account five minutes later, and Felix Torres leveled the scores to 2-2 in the 34th minute.
The second half took a while to get going, but Monterrey took the lead for the second time in the match in the 67th minute, with Funes Mori on target again. It looked like Monterrey were going to take all three points but Santos Laguna’s Harold Preciado and Brian Lozano had other ideas. The former found the back of the net in the 85th minute before Lozana scored the winner from the penalty spot one minute into second-half stoppage. It was the most incredible of games in recent Liga MX memory.
Monterrey suffered their second loss of the season against Club America over the weekend. Monterrey are still on top of the league with a six-point lead, but it was a reminder that they haven’t won anything yet.
Monterrey’s Maximiliano Meza opened the scoring in the 19th minute, but Diego Valdes Contreras leveled the scores in the 36th minute. Half-time ended with a score 1-1. Federico Vinas’ 79th minute was the difference in the end. To make matters worse for Monterrey, Esteban Andredas got sent off just before the final whistle.
It was a day to forget for the league leaders, who were second-best for most of the game. They only had 38% of the possession. Of course, possession isn’t everything, but it showed that there are teams that can take the game to Monterrey. Beating Club America would’ve been a symbolic victory for Monterrey, as Club America have been the most dominant side in the league for most of the decade – it was a great chance to display their authority, but it wasn’t to be for Monterrey.
Monterrey took nine shots, with four on target in the game against Club America, and reduced Club America to eight shots, with five on target. On the whole, there wasn’t a lot between the two sides concerning this metric, but Monterrey sat back for long spells in the game, which was very uncharacteristic of them.
They also didn’t win playing this way, which is a concern. There are a few other teams in the league, like Toluca, Leon, and Pachuca, who can keep the ball for long spells, and if Monterrey doesn’t find a way to keep the ball and recover it quicker in away ties against these teams, they might be in trouble during playoffs. They also need to find a way to win games when they don’t have a lot of ball. Other teams will note what Club America did last week and attempt to do the same against Monterrey in the playoffs.
Santos Laguna’s leaky defense let them down once again in the 4-1 loss to Pachuca over the weekend. Cristian Arango opened the scoring in the ninth minute for the visitors before Javier Marcelo Correa gave Santos Laguna some hope with an equalizer in the 19th minute.
Pachuca took the lead for the second time in the game after Santos Laguna’s Doria scored an own goal in the 31st minute. Santos Laguna looked no better in the second half, with Aviles Hurtado making it 3-1 two minutes just two minutes after the half-time whistle, and Israel Luna added insult to injury with a late strike to make it 4-1.
Pachuca had 55% of the possession and took 15 shots on target compared to Santos Laguna’s 12. Sanos Laguna’s attack hasn’t been much of an issue this season, and they showed some potency going forward in this game as well, but the defense has been abysmal all season. They’re now five points off the playoff spots with three games to go.
Only 18th-placed Maztlan have conceded more than Santos Laguna’s 31 goals this season. Santos Laguna also have a goal difference of -12, the second-worst goal difference in the league. For comparison’s sake, Santos Laguna conceded just 21 goals in the league last season and finished in third place in the league. They’re a far cry from that team this season.
The attack has also suffered because of this imbalance; the forwards look dispirited whenever the ball goes into the back of their net. Manager Eduardo Fentanes has to be held accountable for the team’s organization at the back.
He has had a lot of time to switch to a more defensive system but has persisted with an attacking philosophy that leaves holes at the back. They’ve also been quite undisciplined all season, failing to complete four of their league matches with 11 outfield players. There are clearly a lot of problems at the club, and the board needs to make a big decision soon.
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With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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