By Pete Mulroy, May 16, 2013 10:37 AM EDT
(PHOTO CREDIT: Creative Commons) Oswaldo Sanchez and Santos look to continue their hot play in the Liga MX postseason.
While Monterrey and Club America are already underway in their semifinal series - with the first leg ending in a 2-2 draw - Cruz Azul and Santos Laguna will begin their semifinal battle as both hope to advance to the Liga MX title match.
The Estadio Corona will be packed with fans as Santos Laguna will host Cruz Azul in the first leg of the semifinal on Thursday, May 16th at 10:00pm, EDT. An on-line live stream for the event will be available here.
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The two Liga MX clubs last played on April 27th in front of 30,000 screaming fans at the Estadio Azul. Scoring was at a premium in that match as both teams were very physical on the defensive end, keeping the action in front of them while not allowing unnecessary shots to get in on goal.
The lone goal of the game came in the 36th-minute when Azul's Christian Gimenez sent a header through the pipes, putting Azul up 1-0 and sealing the victory in another close contest.
Santos Laguna defeated Monterrey in the 2012 Clausura final and in order to advance to a second-consecutive championship match, Santos will need their premier players to be on point and step up in Thursday night's crucial first leg.
The offensive success of Santos starts and ends with their leading goal-scorer Darwin Quintero. In a 3-1 victory over Atlas in the quarterfinals, Quintero netted two crucial tallies, helping the club to advance to another semifinal.
Santos will also rely heavily upon their stellar goalie Oswaldo Sanchez. Playing and starting in all 19 of Santos Laguna's matches this season, the 39-year-old Guadalajara, Mexico native has recorded 67 saves this year while posting an eye-popping 0.74 goals allowed per game number.
Sanchez will have his work cut out for him however as he'll face a dangerous offensive unit for Cruz Azul, headlined by dynamic attacker Mariano Pavone. Returning to the final for the first time since finishing behind Santos in 2008, Pavone and Azul are fully capable of reaching this year's title contest.
Pavone leads his team in scoring this season with 12 goals heading into the semis. Coupled on offense with Christian Gimenez (7 goals, 3 assists) this duo will carry Azul throughout the semifinals. Javier Orozco is another player to keep an eye on, as he tallied 6 goals and 2 assists this season, helping Azul find balance and consistency on offense throughout the majority of the year.
There are certainly some highly talented and well-known footballers set to take the field for the upcoming semifinal series that promises to be extremely entertaining for all those involved.
Be sure to catch the first leg of the 2012-2013 Liga MX semifinals between Santos Laguna and Cruz Azul on Thursday, May 16th at 10:00pm, EDT. An on-line live stream can be found by following this link.
WATCH Azul's 1-0 Victory Over Santos From April: