Action from the August 22, 2013, CONCACAF Champions League match between host Sporting San Miguelito and Alajuelense, played at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, Panama. (Photo: Micaela Alvarado)
ALAJUELA, Costa Rica -- Alajuelense (1-0-1, 3 points) and Sporting San Miguelito (1-0-2, 3 points) enter their CONCACAF Champions League encounter on Thursday at the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto Scotiabank with varying chances of reaching the competition’s quarterfinals. For CONCACAF official notes about this game, click here.
Five-time confederation champion Club America (2-0-1, 6 points) is enjoying a three-point lead at the top of the Group 4 table, but it still has work to do.
In order to go even with the Mexican giant, Alajuelense needs to defeat Sporting. Then, since the Costa Rican side beat America 1-0 earlier in the tournament, it would only need a draw when they square off again at the Estadio Azteca on October 22 to progress to the knockout stage.
San Miguelito’s road is more demanding and complicated. To win the group, it has to defeat Alajuelense and would need the Manudos to overcome Club America on the last matchday. That scenario would leave all three teams level on six points, forcing tie-breaker procedures to come into play.
Alajuelense head coach Oscar Ramirez, whose team twice lost leads in a wild 4-4 draw at archrival Saprissa on Sunday, likes the way his team is coming together.
"We have made marked progress," he said. "It has been three months of hard work. The group is strong mentally and, in soccer, we have found balance. We also are able to respond satisfactorily within the field of play to any circumstance."
Sunday's result allowed Saprissa to keep a one-point advantage over the Rojinegros in the Costa Rican Invierno standings. Alajuelense grabbed a 2-0 lead by the 29th minute, before the host rallied for three unanswered goals at halftime. Once again, the visitors surged ahead with two goals, but the Morados equalized in the 90th minute.
In the first CONCACAF meeting between these two clubs on August 22, Sporting recorded a 1-0 home victory over Alajuelense. Midfielder John Pretelt tallied the lone goal in the 37th minute.
Sporting (4-1-6, 13 points) has experienced an uneven season in the Panamanian Apertura, most recently having dropped a 2-1 home decision to Independiente on Saturday.