The most important game of the year to date.
That’s how Cruz Azul striker Mariano Pavone sees Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg against Sporting Kansas City (10 pm ET, FOX Soccer 2, Galavision). And his team is intent on overcoming the 1-0 deficit from the first leg.
“It defines qualification; it defines who continues or goes out,” said “El Tanque” in quotes published Tuesday in Reforma. “It is a vital and important game, too, because winning would be very good for team spirit.”
Forward and fellow Argentine Mauro Formica is adamant his side is equally intent on winning the CONCACAF Champions League as Liga MX and said the Sporting game is nothing less than a final, adding La Máquina are not prioritizing one tournament over the other.
“As [coach Luis Fernando] Tena has said since the start of the season, it’s [about] achieving the maximum, winning and leaving an imprint on the tournaments we are in, as much the league as the CONCACAF tournament,” Formica told Milenio.
For Mexican right back Gerardo Flores – who will likely fill in for the suspended Rogelio Chávez – the key for Cruz Azul is keeping the ball, and Flores is confident in advancing to the semifinals.
“We know they are good physically, they are athletes, but I think that the football we have shown is going to help us to obtain the result,” said Flores to Notimex.
The mood may be positive, but Tena has some serious selection headaches.
Mexico’s Olympic gold medal-winning coach usually fields Alejandro Castro and Gerardo Torrado as holding midfielders, but Castro is suspended, while Torrado has not appeared since Feb. 2 due to injury. His usual backup, Xavier Báez, is cup-tied after featuring in the CCL group stage for Toluca.
One upside for Tena is the possible return of Mexico international Pablo Barrera, who underwent a knee operation last year and got an hour’s soccer under his belt with Cruz Azul’s U-20s on Saturday.