Heading into first third of the 2014 Apertura, Santos Laguna hasn't shown consistent promise. But they've been getting the job done; at least enough to currently sit in sixth place in the table behind this week's home opponent, who hasn't won on the road at Santos during league play since 2004.
Santos completed a comfortable 3-0 win over Correcaminos in Copa MX on Tuesday, yet barely scratched by with a win over Chivas in week five thanks to a last minute game winning goal by Darwin Quintero. They've been tentative to say the least, and with Toluca coming off a strong 3-0 home win against Pachuca, they'll be looking to build off that momentum on top of nabbing an important away victory.
The match is scheduled for Friday August 22nd at 10:30pm EST / 7:30pm PST from the Estadio Territorio Santos Modelo (TSM). The game will be televised live in the United States on Azteca America.
Comparatively, from front to back, Toluca are the stronger team with a more solid defensive group, an aggressive midfield, and versatile players who can attack both in their respective positions up top and build from deep in midfield as well. Paraguayan Pablo Velasquez is a headache when he's given too much space and even a second of extra time if he's attacking; Paolo da Silva operates in the same way. Both players, who have been on point for Toluca and really wear on weak defenses after 80 or so minutes, pose a real threat for this Santos defense which doesn't look too well put together at the moment.
Head to head, Santos has won three out of the last five, and are undefeated at home against Toluca in league play dating back to 2005. Javier Orozco, Nestor Calderon, and Darwin Quintero are current Santos players who've netted against Toluca in those last five meetings, with Orozco scoring both goals in Santos' most recent 2-0 win back in February. The only player to have scored more in those meetings was Oribe Peralta, who had four.
Andres Renteria has assumed the role of leading striker for Santos with Peralta gone, working well with fellow Colombian Quintero off fed passes and scoring from open play. Orozco, Juan Pablo Rodriguez, and Calderon have been attacking threats when possession is in Santos' favor and will look to aid in dismantling Toluca's defensive midfield to break through and defeat Miguel Ponce and da Silva.
Santos' defense won't be as organized as Toluca's, an issue alone which has plagued them for the last couple tournaments and continues to be problematic as each week passes. Last week in Guadalajara, they were more lucky Chivas couldn't finish anything than their performance did much of anything to cause a significant impact. It's possibly Santos' biggest weakness and with Isaac Brizuela, Velazquez, and Carlos Esquivel on the attack, they run a very real risk of giving up easy goals later in the game if not early on. If easy goals aren't given up, it will be partially thanks to the heroics showcased in goal by Oswaldo Sanchez and Alfredo Talavera.
Both teams will be fighting for a spot to move up the table and have quality attackers from all angles, but it will be surprising if Santos are the more dominant team given their recent soft and uninpsiring performances. Back to front, Toluca are more cohesive, while Santos' nagging defensive problems could get the best of them. Either way, Toluca are hungry for a victory at Estadio TSM and Santos are looking to give their home crowd a win and bolster their position in the table.