A pair of clubs who have seen the 2002 portions of their league campaign get off to rocky starts open their Champions Cup round-of-16 series Wednesday, when CA Monarcas Morelia of Mexico plays host to Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica.
Saprissa continued their up-and-down Torneo Clausura with a taut 1:0 victory at home against CS Herediano. A powerful header after 21 minutes from Jorge Ramirez, and a gritty defensive display in the final moments, left Saprissa level fourth with 14 points after 10 matches.
"We still have players who aren't completely recovered," said Saprissa technical director Patricio Hernández. "But the last victories are full credit to them, for their great attitude." The victory was the second in a row for Saprissa, after a 1:0 victory away to ADM Pérez Zeledon last week.
At the weekend, Hernandez put out the following team: Erick Lonis - Andres Nuñez, Gabriel Badilla, Gilberto Martinez, Douglas Sequeira, Juan Bautista Esquivel - Jeaustin Campos, Alonso Solis (82: Alvaro Saborio), Kervin Lacey (46: Randall Azofeifa), Walter Centeno (60: Jonathan Mora) - Jorge Ramirez.
Morelia, like fellow Mexican side Club América, are facing a fixture crunch that will see them play on back-to-back days. Morelia face Sporting Cristal of Peru in Copa Libertadores on Tuesday, where they desperately need a victory.
Monarcas have not seen their league campaign evolve any better in the Torneo Verano, in 14th spot overall (fifth in their group) with nine points from eight matches after a scoreless draw against CD Toluca FC on Saturday. The poor start led to the dismissal of Argentinian coach Miguel Angel Russo after three weeks, replaced by Rubén Omar Romano.
"From the outset both tournaments are important to us, but we are going to put the most attention on the one where we have the best possibility (of advancement)," said Romano.
On Sunday against Toluca, Romano lined up his team as follows: José María Buljubasich - Hugo Cávez (42: Mario Ruiz), Darío Franco, Ramón Heriberto Morales, Omar Rodríguez, Flavio Davino, Jorge Almirón, José Antonio Noriega (56: Gabriel García), Carlos Morales, Alex Fernandes (46: Ismael Iñiguez), Diego Galván.