Domestic-league action picks up again on Friday evening with a critical clash on the Caribbean coast between leader Alajuelense and fourth-place Limón. The match is being played ahead of La Liga's CONCACAF Champions League showdown on Wednesday at Tigres.
Before contemplating the future, though, defender José Salvatierra expects a difficult match locally at the Estadio Juan Gobán: "The dimensions of the field are different, there is little space and that gives them more chance to press us, which is a strength that they have, but we are working on the game plan that the coach (Oscar Ramirez) has designed."
Alajuelense currently enjoys a two-point cushion in the Costa Rican league standings over second place Herediano -- another Costa Rican CCL competitor hoping to qualify for the quarterfinal round next week -- but La Liga has a game in hand over El Team. Limón sits in fourth position on 20 points, a full eight back of the leader.
With a host of teams breathing down the Caribbean side's neck for the final playoff spot in the Costa Rican winter tournament, the host will be anxious to get the better of their visitors, hoping to catch Alajuelense looking ahead to the midweek match in Mexico.
Win or lose, the early weekend date gives La Liga plenty of time to prepare for the CCL trip north. Alajuelense carries an advantage into that game, leading Group 6 with seven points. Tigres trails two points behind with five.
For the Rojinegros, a CCL quarterfinal spot would mean confirmation of some excellent form in international play over the past two seasons. The club is unbeaten in six of its last seven CONCACAF games, including five wins. On Wednesday, Alajuelense will look to validate that success by booking its first-ever trip to the competition's quarterfinals.
In the 2011/12 Champions League, Alajuelense became the first club ever not to reach the knockout round while finishing the group stage with twelve points. The LA Galaxy, Morelia and Alajuelense all finished with twelve points from six group matches, but the Costa Rican side was left out of the knockout round due to goal difference in the results among the three teams.
Alajuelense, which drew 2-2 with UANL in their first meeting this August, won't need to worry about goal differential on Wednesday. Any result besides a loss in Monterrey would see the Costa Ricans through to the quarterfinals of the region's most important club tournament.