CONCACAF Champions League returns Tuesday night with a schedule designed to ease us back in after the competition's short hiatus. With the international match break, CCL took three weeks off, and rather than toss us back in with schedule of toss-up, confusing, "no clue what to make of this" matches, the confederation gives us four games with clear favorites.
The first two kick-off at 8:00 p.m. Eastern with Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew hosting Trinidad and Tobago's Joe Public. At the same time, Monterrey welcomes Honduran power Marathón at the Tecnológico.
Despite Marathón's history of success, they are unlikely to give Monterrey trouble should the Rayados put their best foot forward. That's not always guaranteed from Mexican clubs trying to balance league and CCL, but with Monterrey holding the second-best record in the Apertura, they're in sufficient form to handle Marathón. The Hondurans have only one point from their last two league matches and lost 4-1 to Deportivo Saprissa in their last Champions League contest.
As a result, Marathón has switched coaches, dismissing Nicolas Suazo, replacing him with Edwin Pavon. That along with the suspension of Randy Diamond makes a Marathón upset even more unlikely. Monterrey should get to nine points after their third match and be able to cruise to first place in the group of death (Group C).
At the same time, Columbus will try to avoid a slip against visiting Joe Public, a team with one point through two Group B matches. Columbus is looking to take a stranglehold of second place, currently sitting on three points with the potential to go five clear of third and fourth after Tuesday night's games.
Visa problems and suspensions leave Joe Public coach Derek King with only 16 players for tonight's match, with starting defenders Jevon Morris and Jason Springer out. It makes for a back line that should be easy pickings for Andres Mendoza, set to make his first Columbus start.
At 10 p.m. Eastern, Group B leaders Santos Laguna will be in Guatemala to face Municipal, who are coming off a 1-1 home draw with Joe Public. Santos is looking to move to a perfect nine points but will try to do so without most of their star players. Daniel Luduena, Christian Benitez, and Juan Pablo Rodriguez stayed in Mexico after this weekend's 5-2 route at the hands of Queretaro. A similarly weakened team got a 5-2 Round 1 win at Joe Public, where José Cárdenas had four goals.
Elsewhere in Central America, Seattle Sounders FC are trying to keep their Champions League alive. With Marathón not looking as strong as anticipated, Seattle will likely have to out-point Deportivo Saprissa for second place behind Monterrey. If Seattle loses tonight at Estadio Saprissa, they'll be six back of Deportivo with three matches left - one of those matches giving Saprissa a chance to get more points from a Marathón team they just beat 4-1. If Seattle doesn't win tonight, they'll need help from Saprissa to make the knock-out round.
|B||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Columbus Crew||Joe Public||2-0, Columbus|
|C||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Monterrey||Marathón||4-0, Monterrey|
|B||10:00 p.m. Eastern||Municipal||Santos Laguna||3-1, Santos|
|C||10:00 p.m. Eastern||Deportivo Saprissa||Seattle Sounders||2-1, Saprissa|