• Wednesday Nov 21, 2012

    Xelajú ready for Guadalajara challenge

    QUETZALTENANGO, Guatemala -- The mission for Xelajú is clear enough.

    To progress to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, the defending Guatemalan champion need not win at Guadalajara on Thursday. All the Super Chivos require to seal a place in knockout round on their visit to the Estadio Omnilife is at least one point, but under certain circumstances a narrow loss would be enough to make history.

    Hernan Medford's side knows it won't be easy -- no Mexican club has ever fallen short of the CCL quarterfinals. Last month, Guatemala's Municipal headed to Monterrey with a chance to advance and was subsequently dismantled 3-0 by the Rayados.

    Xelajú will need to be more competitive on Mexican soil to fulfill its dream of advancing. Such an achievement would certainly provide a boost to the Guatemalan game following the national team's agonizing elimination from qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

    After a memorable 1-0 win over Chivas in August, Medford's troops travel to Guadalajara with plenty of confidence. In that match, Edgar Chinchilla's second half goal made the difference, as the Mexican giants were surprised away from home in what was for them the opener of their CCL campaign.

    That loss, though, wouldn't be the end of Chivas' struggles. After a triumph at home over Trinidad & Tobago's DirecTV W Connection, they labored through a 1-1 draw in the return match on the road last time out, meaning only a win on Thursday -- perhaps by multiple goals -- will prevent disaster for the fabled club.

    To obtain the necessary result against Guadalajara, it is essential that the Super Chivos be on the receiving end of more luck than they had at the weekend, drawing 1-1 with Suchitepéquez in the domestic league. Playing in its mountain fortress at the Estadio Mario Camposecoin Quetzaltenango, the home team dominated the action, but hit the post four times, missed two penalty kicks, and scored an own-goal in dropping points at home.

    Medford's squad has been more fortunate during the CONCACAF campaign, coming from behind to tie on the road at DirecTV W Connection, edging Chivas at home, and fighting off a stiff challenge to earn a valuable three points when the Trinidad & Tobago team came to visit last month.

    Xelajú tuned up further during the recent international break with a trip to the USA, where it emerged victorious in a friendly match against an all-star team of international veterans led by former Mexican internationals Luis Hernandez and Claudio Suarez, played in Tennessee.

    Now, Medford has his focus set squarely on qualifying: "We'll be playing eleven versus eleven," he told local media as the team prepared for Tuesday's flight to Mexico. "If Chivas doesn't respect that, then they'll be in some trouble. The result here wasn't because they played badly, it was because of the things our team did on the field."

    With seven points from three matches, undefeated Xelajú leads Group 8 by three points over Guadalajara. The Guatemalans can move on with a win or a tie on Thursday, while the Mexicans can assure themselves of advancement by winning the match by more than two goals.

    A 1-0 win would also mean a quarterfinal spot for Chivas, but any other scoreline in a one-goal win by the home team would put Xelajú through on away goals between the two sides.

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