• Tuesday Apr 30, 2013

    Monterrey, Santos aim for CCL glory

    By Michael Lewis

    MONTERREY, Mexico -- Both Mexican teams in the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) final have their own motivations to secure the coveted title.

    Two-time defending champion Monterrey is attempting to become the first three-time winner of the CCL, since the format of CONCACAF's annual club championship changed in 2008. Meanwhile, Santos is looking to lift its first CONCACAF trophy, when the clubs meet at the Estadio Tecnológico in Monterrey at 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

    The winner qualifies for the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup, which will take place December 11-21 in Morocco. Los Rayados finished in the competition third last year.

    The teams battled to a scoreless draw in the first leg in Torreon last Wednesday. Monterrey, which beat Santos 2-0 at home In the first leg of last year's final, will look to make the most of its home-field advantage once again.

    "The fans often help us win games and even titles," said Monterrey's Walter Ayovi, who is also the Ecuador national team captain. "It is motivating for us when the people back us. Hopefully, the people will enjoy the party, encourage their team and support us in order to achieve the objective."

    Added Ayovi: "We have a nice opportunity. There are 90 minutes which requires much intensity."

    Still, the Guerreros are confident they can emerge with a historic victory. Their hopes were bolstered by the news that striker and Olympic gold medal hero Oribe Peralta, who was forced from the first leg with knee and ankle injuries, will be available to play.

    "When we play to our maximum level there is no team that we cannot beat," Santos captain and goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez said.

    Santos' Spanish midfielder Marc Crosas was equally upbeat: "It would be a very important victory, the fact of being not only the most important tournament and champions in the CONCACAF zone, but also the fact of winning a ticket to play in the [Club] World Cup. It would be a great achievement not only for the players and for the people who are part of this club, but also for the region. It would be nice representing Santos Laguna in December."

    With the stakes so high, neither team can afford to make a mistake.

    "The reality is that we [have] a very important 90 minutes in which an error can leave you without the cup," said defender Jose Maria Basanta, the Monterrey captain.

    The same goes for Santos.

    "We have to be very careful," commented midfielder Juan Pablo Rodriguez. "No doubt Monterrey is a good team. We have to stand very well, close all the spaces."

    Monterrey will try to become only the second team to earn three consecutive CONCACAF club crowns, since Cruz Azul won the Champions Cup, the tournament's predecessor, from 1969-1971.

    Los Rayados also are fighting for a playoff spot in Liga MX. After a 1-0 win at UANL on Saturday, they are in ninth place with a 7-2-7 record and 23 points. Fourth-place Santos (8-5-3, 29 pts.), which dropped a 1-0 decision at Cruz Azul on Saturday, is in a better position to qualify for the post-season.

    But first things first. Monterrey is focused on "winning the final," Ayovi said.

    "We're going step by step," he added. "We're thinking of Wednesday's game, then think of the playoffs."

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