The Concacaf Champions League will be down to eight teams by Thursday night and three of four Liga MX teams have a realistic chance of qualifying for the quarterfinals.
Monterrey, Santos, Toluca and the Tigres are Mexico’s representatives in the Concacaf Champions League and each of the four will be hosting a second-leg match in the Round of 16 this week.
Santos is virtually in the final eight already after destroying Marathon 6-2 in the first leg. The Honduran club travels to Torreón for the return match Wednesday night. Monterrey – with a second-string line-up – settled for a scoreless draw in El Salvador against Alianza and the Central Americans visit Estadio BBVA Bancomer on Wednesday.
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The Tigres played a poor match in Costa Rica and lost to Saprissa last week, though they held out top scorer André-Pierre Gignac who didn’t even make the trip. Over the weekend, the Tigres moved to the top of the Liga MX table, and now they must overturn the 1-0 deficit from the first leg at home on Tuesday night.
A fourth Liga MX team – Toluca – appears hopeless after losing 3-0 in Kansas City to Sporting KC last week. Over the weekend, the Diablos Rojos were hammered by Santos 4-0 and ownership reacted quickly, firing coach Hernán Cristante.
Tigres coach Ricardo Ferretti famously sneers at non-league tournaments, but the home fans might not accept a dismissive approach to Tuesday night’s home match.
Saprissa played a disciplined counter-attacking style and the Tigres obliged with a sloppy performance, squandering several very good scoring chances. If Gignac is in the line-up, such wastefulness is less likely.
Tuesday’s Concacaf Champions League slate also features last year’s runner-up, Toronto FC, facing Panama’s surprising Independiente. Toronto traveled to the isthmus last week and was taken apart 4-0. The Reds – as are all MLS teams – are still in training camp as their season doesn’t kick off until this weekend, while Independiente has already played 5 league matches.
Oddsmakers don’t see Toronto overturning the deficit as the club suffered significant roster turnover and striker Jozy Altidore is struggling to regain fitness after ankle surgery.
Also Tuesday, the Houston Dynamo host Guatemala’s Guastatoya with the MLS squad protecting a slim 1-0 advantage from last week’s first leg.
Santos and Monterrey host matches on Wednesday. The Guerreros will surely rest some starters with a 4-goal advantage and a big match against León coming up on the weekend.
Monterrey, on the other hand, has some work to do after an underwhelming performance in El Salvador. The Rayados will hope for better quality refereeing after Jamaica ref Kevin Morrison allowed all sorts of rough play from Alianza and the visitors spent much of the game avoiding questionable tackles.
Monterrey rested league-leading scorer Rogelio Funes Mori over the weekend, but he is expected back in the line-up Wednesday. The Rayados are the top scoring team in Liga MX and with 14 of their 20 goals coming at Estadio BBVA Bancomer, the home fans will be expecting reason to cheer.