Desperate for a win, Santos visits an equally desperate Cruz Azul Saturday.
If the Clausura 2019 season ended today, Cruz Azul and Santos – last season’s No. 1 seed and No. 4 seed, respectively – would not be in the playoffs.
Heading into their Matchday 7 showdown at Estadio Azteca Saturday afternoon, both teams are desperate to salvage a season that appears to be going nowhere. The Guerreros and Cementeros are tied with 8 points through 6 matches, good for 9th and 10th in the table.
Cruz Azul’s offense has been terrible. If you look up “inept” in the dictionary there is a photo of the Cruz Azul roster, with Martín Cauteruccio and Milton Caraglio front and center.
Santos (5 goals through 6 games) has not been much better as Julio Furch and Bryan Lozano are still adjusting to life without Jonathan Rodríguez who is now wearing a Cruz Azul jersey.
A loss here wouldn’t be the death knell, but neither team can afford to delay their return to form.
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Toluca 1, Cruz Azul 1
High-priced acquisition Orbelín Pineda finally contributed, scoring his first goal of the season in minute 26 to fashion a 1-0 lead on the road. The Cementeros played good positional defense, but failed to protect the advantage, conceding the equalizer off a corner kick in minute 66. Despite earning a valuable point on the road, coach Pedro Caixinha can’t be happy with his team’s malaise. The Cementeros only got 2 shots on goal and rarely threatened.
Santos 1, Tijuana 1
Visiting Tijuana gave the Guerreros all they could handle, taking an early lead from a splendid Miller Bolaños goal. Santos fought back, occasionally sustaining pressure in attack and Javier Correa – the man signed to replace Jona Rodríguez – poked home from close range and Santos saw out the tie. Central defender Matheus Doria was serving a one-game suspension, but the back line held up well, limiting the Xolos to 3 shots.
Cruz Azul: 4-4-2
Madueña – Lichnovsky – Domínguez – Aldrete
Hernández – Salas – Pineda – Alvarado
Cauteruccio – Rodríguez
I suspect hard man Pablo Aguilar will be ready to play after severely spraining his ankle last week against Toluca, but a week off would be better in the long run. Pineda needs to establish himself in midfield and win the confidence of his teammates. This could be Martín Cauteruccio’s last chance to claim playing time as a striker.
Abella – Nervo – Doria – Angulo
Lozano – Vázquez – Valdes – Preciado
Furch – Correa
It’s time for Diego Valdes and Ayrton Preciado to step up or it might be time for coach Salvador Reyes to juggle his starting line-up. Santos has several skill players on its bench, including winter transfer Marlos Moreno, a 22-year-old Colombian, and Deiner Quiñonez, a midfielder.
Cruz Azul: Orbelín Pineda needs to show he can be a playmaker and must make his presence known early and often against Santos. He’ll do battle in the middle of the pitch with former Chivas teammate José Juan Vázquez and if he wins his share of those skirmishes, the Cementeros should get scoring opportunities.
Santos: Goalie Jonathan Orozco is great with the ball at his feet and he has a solid defense in front of him. If Orozco can play out of the back with quick, accurate passes, Santos could generate dangerous counterattacks.
Neither team has been too convincing this year, and what they lack in consistency, they have made up for with mediocrity. It’s tough to see either of these teams contending for the title without a win in this game. Which team has luck on its side?