Action from the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal, first leg match between Cruz Azul (blue jersey) and host Club Tijuana on April 1, 2014. (Photo: Mexsport)
MEXICO CITY -- Cruz Azul and Club Tijuana have a lot to play for – domestically and in the CONCACAF Champions League.
They have put Liga MX aside for the moment because the biggest match of the year comes Wednesday in the second leg of their CCL semifinal series at the Estadio Azul.
Visiting Xolos enter the encounter with a 1-0 lead thanks to a Cristian Pellerano’s second-half goal last week.
“It is a very important game and we are preparing hard so that we can advance in the tournament,” Tijuana midfielder Javier Guemez said. “It is a great opportunity for us to keep writing our history in our team. It is a game we want to win. Now it is the most important game, but we know we have two competitions and we want to transcend.”
Both teams are coming off victories in the Mexican Clausura. On Friday, host Tijuana defeated fellow CCL semifinalist Toluca, 3-1. Dario Benedetto, Guemez and Pellerano all scored in an effort that saw their team climb into seventh place.
First-place Cruz Azul got past Club America on Saturday, 2-1, at the Estadio Azteca, clinching a post-season berth. Mauro Formica (18’) gave Cruz Azul an early lead and Julio Dominguez followed with a glancing header off a free kick two minutes before the break.
In the Liga MX standings, La Maquina is four points ahead of Toluca after 14 rounds. Like Xolos, its focus is on winning two championships.
“We are interested in the two,” said defender Julio Dominguez. “We have demonstrated that we are well and ready to compete on both sides. I believe that our biggest strength is the whole game and of that we are mentally ready to achieve things.”
As was the case on the weekend, when he came off the substitute’s bench in the 37th minute, forward Ismael Valadez said he is prepared to step in for Mariano Pavone if the Argentine is unable to play Wednesday.
“I’m ready when Professor Luis Fernando Tena needs me,” stressed Valadez, who has spent much of the season with Cruz Azul Hidalgo in the Liga Ascenso MX. “I hope Mariano Pavone will recover, but, if not, I’m an alternative. Professor Luis Fernando knows I’m ready at any moment, either in the league of CONCACAF, but let’s wait about Pavone.”
Cruz Azul is looking for its third appearance in a CCL final, while Tijuana is bidding for its first.