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Santos Laguna is hoping to add to Cruz Azul's misery on Thursday night when it hosts the first leg of the Mexican Liga MX Clausura playoffs. Cruz Azul is making its eighth appearance in a Liguilla final since it last won one in 1997. Santos has won five of its six titles since then, the last in the 2018 Clausura. La Maquina comes in as the Clausura's regular-season winner, while Santos finished fifth. Both teams play strong defense, so it is expected to be a tight contest. Los Guerrerros are especially strong on their home turf at Estadio Corona, and they want to have a decisive result to take to Mexico City for the second leg on Sunday.

Kickoff from La Concha, Mexico is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET. William Hill Sportsbook lists Santos Laguna as a 0.5-goal and slight +145 money-line favorite (risk $100 to win $145) in its latest Cruz Azul vs. Santos Laguna odds, while the over-under for total goals scored is 1.5. Before finalizing any Santos Laguna vs. Cruz Azul picks, check out the Liga MX predictions from SportsLine's Martin Green.

After working in the sports betting industry for several years, Green became a professional sports writer and handicapper. Since then, his soccer picks have been spot-on. In fact, Green has generated nearly $19,000 for $100 bettors since the 2017-18 season.

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Now, Green has broken down Cruz Azul vs. Santos Laguna in the Liga MX final. You can visit SportsLine now to see his picks. Here are several odds and trends for Santos Laguna vs. Cruz Azul:

  • Cruz Azul vs. Santos Laguna spread: Santos Laguna -0.5 (+150)
  • Cruz Azul vs. Santos Laguna over-under: 1.5 goals
  • Cruz Azul vs. Santos Laguna money line: Cruz Azul +225, Santos +145, Draw +180
  • Cruz Azul: La Maquina has outscored opponents 22-8 over its past 10 games
  • Santos: Los Guerreros have a 22-8 edge in goals in their past 10 at home 

Why you should back Santos Laguna

Los Guerreros are strong at home, going 4-1-0 in their last five at Estadio Corona and 11-4-2 over the two regular-season tournaments. They got a 1-0 home victory the last time the teams played, in the Torneo Clausura opener in January. The teams' tight match that day could be a preview of this series. The teams split possession 50/50, and Azul outshot Santos 12-8 but Los Guerreros had a 4-2 edge in shots on target. Diego Valdes scored his only goal of the season in that match before breaking his foot, but he has a goal and two assists in the playoffs.

The home team has won each of the past four matchups, and Santos scored 29 and allowed just 12 in its 17 home matches over the two seasons. It yielded the third-fewest in the Clausura with 13. Goalkeeper Carlos Acevedo had 11 clean sheets in the 34 matches and saved 79.6 percent of the shots he faced. Santos has 10 players with multiple goals over the two seasons, led by Fernando Gorriaran (six goals, six assists). Injuries have allowed young players like 22-year-old Eduardo Aguirre to flourish, and he has broken out with five goals in the postseason.

Why you should back Cruz Azul

La Maquina will be highly motivated to break a frustrating string of near-misses in the Liga MX playoffs. Cruz Azul dominated during the regular season, tying for the league lead with 26 goals and allowing a league-low 11, and it hasn't let up in the Liguilla. Cruz Azul showed against Pachuca it can grind with anyone, playing to a scoreless draw before a 1-0 win at home. It lost its first two games of the season before going on a 15-game unbeaten run. It lost 2-1 at Toluca in the first leg of the quarterfinals, but Azul won six of eight road matches in the regular season. 

Cruz Azul was plus-15 in goal differential in the Clausura, while Santos scored just 18 goals (fourth-fewest in Liga MX) and was plus-4. Jonathan Rodriguez has a league-best 21 goals in 31 matches over the past year, and he has a goal and two assists in the playoffs. Luis Romo has 10 assists over the two seasons, and Brayan Angulo has five goals in all competitions since the start of April. Goalkeeper Jose Corona led Liga MX with 14 clean sheets in 31 matches and had an 81.5 save percentage. 

How to make Liga MX picks for Cruz Azul vs. Santos Laguna

Green has analyzed this matchup and has revealed his best bets and analysis for Thursday's showdown. He's only sharing his top picks here

So who wins Santos Laguna vs. Cruz Azul? And where does all the betting value lie? Visit SportsLine now to see the top picks for Cruz Azul vs. Santos Laguna, all from the proven soccer expert who has generated nearly $19,000 for $100 bettors since the 2017-18 season.