UANL Tigres Vs. Santos Laguna, 2011 Apertura Liguilla Final: Preview, Saints Facing Serious Uphill Battle

UANL Tigres fans celebrating. Tigres takes on Santos Laguna in the second leg of the 2011 Apertura Liguilla final on Sunday, December 11, 2011.

Santos Laguna have a serious mountain to climb in the second leg of the Liguilla final. They need a one-goal win away to UANL Tigres to force extra time, and a win by two goals or more to win the championship.

To have a good chance to win the 2011 Apertura Liguilla Final, Santos Laguna probably needed to win at home in the first leg. Almost certainly, they had to avoid losing. Instead, the first leg at Estadio Corona in Torreon was a disaster for the Saints, as they lost 1-0. Their captain and best ball-winnner, Juan Pablo Rodriguez, was shown a straight red card for his kick to the groin of UANL Tigres' Manuel Viniegra, and will be suspended for the second leg. That's the bad news for Santos.

The good news is that they held on for 60 minutes, not allowing a goal while playing with 10 vs. 11. The match was even from the sending off until the end of the game, with Santos having a couple of decent scoring chances. Tigres had come into the match obviously looking to keep a clean sheet, and they didn't alter their gameplan once they gained a man advantage.

At home, they might be a bit more ambitious going forward, but Tigres are always about keeping a clean sheet first. They have the best defense in Mexico and they haven't lost at home in this tournament because of that. They also haven't given up a goal in any of their five Liguilla matches, two home and three away. There isn't really any reason to believe that Santos will win at the Estadio Universitario, either lifting the cup after 180 minutes or forcing extra time.

The away goals rule is not in effect, so any one-goal win by Santos will cause the tie to go into extra time. They aren't expected to pull it off, but with firepower like Oribe Peralta and Carlos Darwin Quintero up top, no one is counting them out. Peralta is the Mexican Primera's leading scorer, while Quintero is just as much of a great creator as he is a finisher. Quintero's pace and creativity, along with Peralta's size and finishing instincts make them a fantastic partnership, capable of scoring against anyone.

Santos' only injury doubt is Daniel Ludueña, though he is expected to start. David Toledo and Fernando Navarro are questionable for Tigres, but their side fared well without them in the first match and will probably refrain from making changes. 

UANL Tigres vs. Santos Laguna

Game Date/Time: Sunday, Dec. 11, 7:00 p.m. ET

Venue: Estadio Universitario, San Nicolas, Nuevo Leon, Mexico

TV: Telemundo

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