By Dylan Butler
Santos is fairly comfortable about getting to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. Tigres is less so.
Santos goes into Wednesday night's Group 1 finale against Toronto FC in Torreon, Mexico, with a three-point lead over the Canadian side and a 3-1 victory in their first encounter at BMO Field.
For Toronto to reach the quarterfinals for a second straight year, it has to beat Santos Laguna by at least three goals or two goals - so long as it scores four.
It is a daunting task made even more difficult by Toronto FC's injury woes.
The Canadians could be without defenders Logan Emory and Darren O'Dea, as well as striker Eric Hassli. All three are listed as questionable. Emory left Saturday's 0-0 draw with the Montreal Impact with a lingering shoulder injury.
O'Dea returned from World Cup qualifying with Ireland with a thigh injury and while Hassli returned from a sprained ankle on Saturday, he could miss the trip to Mexico because his wife was expecting to give birth.
"We'll just take a deep breath and assess it," Toronto coach Paul Mariner told MLSSoccer.com.
Santos , which leads Group 1 with nine points, is hoping for a repeat of last season's semifinals second leg in Torreon, when Santos won 6-2. It enters the match coming off a 4-1 loss to Toluca in the Mexican Apertura.
"Los Guerreros" are looking to add to Mexico's dominance in the Champions League since its inception. Tigres UNAL would too, but its position is more precarious.
It trails Group 6 leader Alajuelense by two points entering Wednesday night's match at Estadio Universitario, and needs a victory to avoid becoming the first Mexican team to fail to get to the quarterfinals.
The teams played to a 2-2 draw in the first Group Stage meeting on August 22 at Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto as Luis Miguel Valle struck the dramatic equalizer in the first minute of second-half stoppage time.
Tigres is hoping to ride the momentum from a 5-0 victory over Pumas UNAM in the Mexican Apertura on Saturday. Alberto Acosta scored three goals in the victory that snapped a three-game losing streak and a six-game winless skid.
"I hope the team comes out with this confidence in their teammates and what worked," Tigres coach Ricardo Ferreti said. "Advancing to the next round is one of the goals we set, seeking qualification in both tournaments."
Alajuelense, though, is not entering with the idea of merely playing for a draw.
"The team can spring a surprise, because we're going with the mentality to win," Alajuelense coach Oscar Ramirez told Nacion.com. "What happens is that we still do not know what we are going to face.
"If they (Tigres) will focus on the domestic season, or if CONCACAF interests them more. Those are the circumstances which with we have worked."
While Group 1 and Group 6 are undecided, Seattle already has clinched the top spot in Group 4 and will work for better quarterfinal seeding when it hosts Marathon Wednesday at CenturyLink Field.
The Sounders enter the match having clinched a top three berth in Major League Soccer's Western Conference with a 3-1 win over FC Dallas Saturday.
"I think we are hungry, more than anything," Seattle midfielder Brad Evans told the Seattle Times. "We can compete with anybody and we have shown that throughout the year. For us, I think we are confident, but we aren't overconfident."
Despite having being mathematically eliminated from reaching knockout stage, Marathon, which lost to Seattle, 3-2, in San Pedro Sula on September 19, is looking to end its Champions League campaign strong.
"We will take this match with the same responsibility to represent the country and we hope to do it in the best way," captain Mario Berrios told Diez.hn.