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Both Santos and America will be walking into the Liga MX weekend with some serious doubts lingering above their heads.
Santos — for all of their early success with two wins and a draw to start the season — will likely be missing a key figure who has been a game-changer in recent weeks. As for America, there’s also plenty that needs to be organized and resolved in a team that is adjusting to a new manager.
Although it’s tempting to think that Santos could find a path towards a win, especially at home, America won’t go down easy.
This should be a close and entertaining battle.
|Santos Laguna vs Club America Information|
|What||Santos Laguna vs Club America|
|Where||Estadio Corona (Torreon, Mexico)|
|When||Sunday, January 31st at 8:00 PM ET|
|How to Watch||FS2|
There has been much to like about Santos in the first few weeks of the 2021 Clausura. With an immense amount of help from goalkeeper Carlos Acevedo in the net, Los Guerreros have had a promising and undefeated start to the new year with seven points in hand from three games.
That said, although they’ll be the favorites against America on Sunday, Santos could end up running into a few obstacles due to the absence of a key player.
On Thursday morning, numerous outlets in Mexico reported that star midfielder Diego Valdes had suffered an injury and would be unlikely to get minutes this weekend. Without Vades, Santos will literally be missing their No. 10 who has had a hand in two of their three goals in 2021. Valdes is also an indisputable starter who conducts most of the attacking flow going forward.
So with this in mind, does America now have a golden opportunity to clinch an away win?
Not exactly. Manager Santiago Solari is still accommodating himself to his new role and appears to be tinkering with his formations and tactics. With doubts for both teams, you find yourself looking towards a draw for Sunday.
You can’t blame the former Real Madrid manager for testing out his roster. Lacking a true and full preseason, Solari has been left swapping his players and tactics as he attempts to figure out what could work best for the Mexico City team.
It hasn’t been entirely unfruitful — he’s got two wins and just one loss — but it also hasn’t been as convincing or dominant as many have expected from the most successful club in the league.
Stuck in a limbo of testing out new names while also trying to protect his backline, attacking restraint is often used instead of pushing numbers forward.
And even if they do push forward, America will have to deal with one of the top goalkeepers in Liga MX.
Second to only (and maybe) Club Tijuana’s Jonathan Orozco, Acevedo has been brilliant with his high-flying stops and saves that have guided Santos up the league table. With a perfect start to the year that has also included a saved penalty, Acevedo has yet to allow a goal in the Clausura.
The scary thing is, this is a player that has yet to reach his full potential.
At just 24 years of age, Acevedo has been one of the more recent goalkeeping revelations in the league. Looking to build his profile even higher, and to also get the attention of Mexico national team manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino, expect the young goalie to continue his excellent run of form.
But what about Santos’ attack?
While Acevedo and his defense will have plenty of confidence to get the job done in their own half, it’s difficult to believe that the same could be said for the other end of the pitch. A crucial playmaker/goalscorer like Valdes will be missing, and barring an unexpected and immediate recovery, Santo’s frontline will be greatly depleted.
A quick look at some of their attacking names also doesn’t alleviate many worries. With a mixture of less-than-exciting veterans and young players who may not have the highest potential, there’s a chance Santos might not even find the back of the net this weekend.
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Freelance writer Cesar Hernandez is a specialist in all things American and Mexican soccer. He has written for ESPN FC, The Athletic, The Guardian, FourFourTwo, VICE Sports and several other publications. Along with writing and previous radio appearances on the BBC, talkSPORT and SiriusXM FC, Cesar is also a member of the Mexican Soccer Show podcast. Email: [email protected]More info on Cesar Hernandez
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