The Championship phase of the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League will kick off Tuesday with Mexican Primera side Monarcas Morelia hosting fellow Mexican Primera side Monterrey (10:00 pm ET, Galavision). As the defending champions of the CCL, Monterrey will garner most of the attention heading into the match, but this should be an exciting and even tie. Both teams are near the top of the standings in the Mexican Primera, with Morelia currently sitting atop the standings, after beating Queretaro over the weekend 3-0, and Monterrey in 6th, but only five points off first place.
After winning the CCL last year, Monterrey went into something of a dip in form, but never an all-out crisis. Unlike most Mexican clubs, they stood by manager Victor Manuel Vucetich, with whom they have also won two domestic titles. Although star striker and Chilean international Humberto Suazo sought a transfer this past January, another event that unsettled the club, no transfer came through and he has recently been reintegrated back into the squad. Alongside Mexican international Aldo de Nigris, the pair make a fearsome tandem up top. Additionally, younger players like Cherokee Perez and Jesus Zavala, both recently capped by Mexico, have stepped up and become vital members of the Rayados squad.
Meanwhile, Morelia are a team that can flatter to deceive at times, but their recent form has been outstanding. Led by veteran forward Miguel Sabah, who has scored seven goals in eight matches in the 2012 Clausura tournament, Morelia has been able to control possession and take early leads on opponents and overpower them on the attack. Mexican international Rafael Marquez Lugo is another important component of Morelia's attack, and they will hope their current standing in the domestic table will help them get by the defending champions.
As is often the case with match-ups between two very good teams, the goals may be harder to come by than normal and the tie will probably be won or lost in the midfield. While both teams boast good midfields, their stars primarily play as forwards, and it will be up to the respective midfielders to control the tempo of the match and get the ball to the strikers. Monterrey will likely try to pass the ball through channels and keep the game on the ground, while Morelia will probably try to play the ball over the top of the Monterrey defense. Both defenses can step up and have a banner day, but they are also prone to mistakes, and if one defense is unable to meet the challenge on the night, it could be catastrophic.