Santos Laguna CONCACAF Champions League Preview

Santos Laguna, play in Torreon, located in north-central Mexico. Their Estadio Corona is one of the newer stadiums in Liga MX after replacing the old Estadio Corona in 2009 and is notable for its bright green seats, the color of Los Guerreros.

Santos Laguna are one of the younger teams in Mexico, both as a club and on the pitch. Santos are continually fielding the youngest or one of the youngest sides in Liga MX on a weekly basis. Even the man in charge, Luis Zubeldia, is just 34 years of age, after receiving his first managerial job at Argentinian side Lanus at the age of 27. Zubeldia was reunited with three of his players from Lanus – captain Carlos Izquierdoz, Diego “Pulpo” Gonzalez and goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin – when he took over Santos at the end of the 2015.

While Santos' youth may imply they have many players coming through the ranks, the only first-team regular hailing from the club's academy is right back Jose Abella. Instead, purchases made at home and in the international market define their youth ranks. Leading the line for Santos is Andres Renteria, a 22-year-old Colombian purchased by Santos in 2012. The oldest regular in the Santos side is Gonzalez, a December 2014 signing, who recently turned 28.

Santos had a year of highs and lows in 2015 – the first half of the year saw them capture the 2015 Clausura title after they turned a last-day playoff qualification into a dominant postseason run. However, the 2015 Apertura was disappointing for Santos as they failed to win a home fixture and finished 15th in the table. After an excellent preseason along and some strong early Clausura performances, Santos are showing signs of turning things around in 2016.

3 Stars

  • Djaniny – The 24 year old Cape Verde international arrived in Torreon during the summer of 2014. The better part of Djaniny’s first year in Mexico was filled with lackluster performances but in the club’s 2015 Liguilla run the forward/wide attacker found his touch. His pace, athleticism and dribbling make him a lethal part of the Santos Laguna attack.
  • Agustin Marchesin – Marchesin’s displays since joining Santos has earned him a reputation as one of the best 'keepers in Liga MX, and earned him a late call-up to Argentina’s 2015 Copa America squad. The 27-year-old has excellent reflexes and will look to start counterattacks with quick and accurate distribution.
  • Bryan Rabello – While there were several options to fill this slot like Nestor Calderon, Gonzalez or Andres Renteria, at 21 years old, Chilean international attacker Rabello looks to have the highest upside. Technically strong with both feet, the former Sevilla man was a regular for Santos in the 2015 Apertura. Already with a brace this season, Zubeldia will be hoping the youngster can continue to grow in Liga MX to become a regular scorer and chance creator. 

Tactical Look

Santos Laguna have looked more like the side that was successful under former manager Pedro Caixinha during the opening games of the Clausura. Zubeldia’s side has favored a 4-2-3-1, but has also taken advantage of the flexibility of a player like Nestor Calderon to switch into a 4-3-3. Calderon was brought through Toluca’s ranks as a wide player but has developed into a more than capable midfield presence over the past few seasons.

Los Guerreros are associated with a more European brand of soccer, typically playing a higher line, pressing and being more direct in attack. They will look to control the ball at home but have a difficult time creating scoring chances against better defenses during prolonged possession, and the more technical players can be guilty of dribbling their way into trouble.

Starting XI

  • GK: Agustin Marchesin
  • RB: Jose Abella
  • CB: Carlos Izquierdoz
  • CB: Nestor Araujo
  • LB: Jorge Villafaña
  • DM: Jesus Molina
  • DM: Diego "Pulpo" Gonzalez
  • RM: Djaniny
  • AM: Bryan Rabello
  • LM: Nestor Calderon
  • F: Andres Renteria

CCL History

Santos Laguna have made several appearances in the CCL, most recently falling in the finals in back-to-back competitions to three-time CCL champions, Monterrey.

2010-11: Quarterfinals
2011-12: Finals
2012-13: Finals

Projection

Of the four CCL matchups, Santos Laguna’s matchup with LA Galaxy may be the most difficult to call. The Galaxy have more than enough talent to put up goals on Santos at the StubHub Center, but Santos does have the benefit of a second leg at home. While the green and white have finally been able to claim victory at home in recent weeks, their home form is still something of a concern. A handful of goals at home for the LA Galaxy could prove to be too much for Santos Laguna to overcome.