Santos’ failure to score at Monterrey could hurt them if the Rayados duplicate their offensive effort in Saturday night’s game in Torreón.
Wednesday night’s shutout by Monterrey was the first time that Santos failed to score in Liga MX play all season.
The defending champs must win at home – where they are unbeaten (6-3-0, 17 GF, 6 GA) – but if the Rayados score, Santos will have to win by 2 goals, because away goals are the first tiebreak when the aggregate score of the 2-game series is tied.
Santos defeated Monterrey 1-0 at Estadio Corona on Matchday 14 and a similar result would take the game to overtime.
Santos: 8-6-3, 27 GF, 18 GA
6-3-0 at home, 17 GF, 6 GA
Monterrey: 9-3-5, 25 GF, 19 GA
3-2-4 on the road, 8 GF, 10 GA
First leg result
Monterrey 1, Santos 0
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The Rayados created a bundle of scoring chances, but took turns bungling them. Rogelio Funes Mori was particularly profligate, spraying a shot wide and making a poor pass when he had a lane to shoot. He made up for it with a wonder goal, smacking home a bicycle kick from the run of play. Flashy midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro started the scoring play and looked frisky after months of leg woes. For Santos, Jonathan Rodríguez limped off injured in minute 63, while midfielders Osvaldo Martínez and José Juan Vázquez had off-games. The Guerreros only managed to get 4 shots on goal and Marcelo Barovero stopped them all.
Abella – Dória – Nervio – Angulo
Lozano – Vázquez – Mártinez – Preciado
Rodríguez – Furch
I’m not sure if Rodríguez will be available so if he misses the game or starts on the bench, coach Salvador Reyes can insert Jesús Isijara in midfield and move Bryan Lozano up front to pair with Julio Furch. Fullbacks José Abella and Jesús Angulo must be fit and ready for a long day. They’ll be expected to push up and support the offense, but must quickly track back to chase Monterrey’s speedy attackers.
Medina – Sánchez – Basanta – Vangioni
Rodríguez – Pizarro – Ortiz – Gallardo
Pabón – Funes Mori
Coach Diego Alonso might be quick to go to his deep bench if he needs to make tactical adjustments. He’s got quality subs on all three lines: César Montes and even Jesús Molina if he wants to insert a third central defender; Aviles Hurtado for speed; and Luis Madrigal as a striker. Nico Sánchez and José María Basanta will shadow Julio Furch with the help of Celso Ortiz. Pizarro will take on the Santos midfield with his dribbling skills, but will need to avoid turnovers (as he did on Wednesday). Dorlan Pabón will test Angulo and Abella, looking to send in a steady stream of crosses.
Santos: Midfielder Bryan Lozano showed some energy and was strong on the ball for the first time in several games. If Jona Rodríguez is limited, Lozano must team up more effectively with Furch, both as passer and receiver because Furch is so good at the give-and-go.
Monterrey: Goalie Marcelo Barovero was mostly an innocent bystander on Wednesday, but Santos will fire away early and often at home. He has not had a great season after moving over from Necaxa, but he is a quality keeper and he might have to make some big saves for the Rayados to advance.
Santos is one of the most balanced teams in the league (along with Tigres and América, they are in the top four in goals scored and goals allowed), but the Rayados showed a spring in their step as a few key players have gotten healthy at just the right time. Julio Furch was a big-time scorer as Santos claimed the Clausura 2018 title last season and it will be hard to keep him off the scoreboard. He may even score twice, but a Monterrey away goal will allow the Rayados to advance to the semifinals.