Both sides kept their Apertura hopes alive on the final matchday of the season, with Laguneros defeating San Luis 2-0 while Canoneros beat Toluca 1-0.
A late surge by the club from Comarca Laguna down the stretch of the Apertura campaign enabled them to sneak into ninth place, qualifying for at least the play-in round for a sixth successive time in the opening phase of this competition.
They began the domestic campaign with just one victory in their first five games but won three of their final four fixtures, scoring 11 goals over that stretch.
While they squeaked into this round, their form in the first half of the season was largely underwhelming when compared to the previous campaign, finishing with 23 points, their fewest in the opening phase since 2017-18 (18).
Of those 23 points, 16 came at home, with Guerreros claiming victory in three of their final four domestic encounters at Estadio Corona, outscoring their opponents 10-4 over that span.
To this point of the 2023-24 league season, Pablo Repetto's side have been unusually poor defensively, finishing tied with Juarez for the most goals conceded in the Apertura this year (34), allowing 13 more strikes than they had given up in the opening round of the previous domestic campaign.
Historically, Santos Laguna boast a 100% record all-time at home versus Mazatlan, failing to concede in those three encounters.
From one side that regressed this season, we have Mazatlan, who made great strides in the Apertura this time around, claiming five more points (22) than they had at this same stage a year ago.
Ismael Rescalvo's men were sparkling down the stretch of the domestic season, winning four of their final five fixtures and scoring three or more goals in three of those encounters.
Mazatlan earned points in four away matches in the first half of the Liga MX season but squandered four points on the road when scoring the opening goal.
This team conceded three more goals in the Apertura this year (27) when compared to a year ago, while allowing three or more on five occasions.
During the opening phase of this competition, they dropped six points when leading at the interval, scoring nine goals beyond the 70th minute.
They have lost two of their last three meetings with Santos Laguna in Liga MX but won the previous encounter against them, 3-1 in November.
Goals from Felix Torres and Pedro Aquino within the opening 12 minutes of their previous fixture powered them to a victory over San Luis, while Carlos Acevedo made three stops to collect a clean sheet.
A brace from Javier Correa the last time they hosted Mazatlan this season ensured their victory at home versus Canoneros, with former midfielder Fernando Gorriaran netting the winner from the penalty spot.
Mazatlan could be missing as many as four players for this critical encounter as Roberto Meraz is recovering from knee surgery, Nicolas Benedetti is out for the season with a torn ACL, Ake Loba is out due to an unknown injury and Eduardo Bello will be doubtful because of a muscle issue.
Josue Colman was involved in all three goals in their previous victory over Santos Laguna, scoring eight minutes from the end, with Facundo Almada and Luis Amarilla also finding the back of the net.
Santos Laguna possible starting lineup:
Acevedo; Govea, Torres, Prieto, Campos; Cervantes, Aquino; Medina, Brunetta, Vergara; Preciado
Mazatlan possible starting lineup:
Gonzalez; Colula, Almada, Olivas, Maduena; Intriago, Flores; Barcenas, Montano, Colman; Loba
We say: Santos Laguna 2-1 Mazatlan
As unstable as Laguna have been throughout the Apertura season, they are used to playing in these elimination games, while this is relatively new territory for their opponents, who have struggled to create many scoring opportunities as the visiting team.
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