Some things never change. Others do. In the case of Mexican clubs in the CONCACAF Champions League, it's both. Like always, the teams from the Mexican Primera have dominated the competition, to nobody's surprise, but what has shocked some is how seriously the teams have taken the competition. Now, the Champions League is a priority for many Mexican clubs.
On Wednesday, when Monterrey and Santos Laguna square of at Estadio Tecnologico on Wednesday for the first leg of the tournament final, they will do so with fresh squads after both rested players in league over the weekend to have them ready for Wednesday's tilt. Humberto Suazo, Darvin Chavez and Angel Reyna were among the Monterrey players who did not starts against Atlas on Saturday, while Santos sat Felipe Baloy, Jorge Ivan Estrada and Juan Pablo Rodriguez against America. Both teams lost, and while upsetting, they knew they were risking it when they made the choice. The Champions League is the priority.
Ever since the introduction of a Champions League for the North American, Central America and Caribbean confederation, Mexican clubs have dominated the competition. Never before had a Mexican club lost a two-legged tie in the competition to a non-Mexican team and that held true again this year, with Monterrey knocking out Monarcas Morelia and Pumas UNAM, setting them up for a final against Santos. Mexico is still dominant.
Monterrey entered the tournament as the defending champions, but were on shaky ground as their form dipped, but that was months ago. Now, they are still the defending champions, obviously, but they are also in fine form. Yes, their loss to Atlas over the weekend was awful, but they thrashed Morelia and Pumas to get to the final, are comfortably in the Liguilla and have what is undoubtedly the best strike partnership in all of the Americas in Suazo and Aldo de Nigris.
Santos have done even better in the league, vaulting themselves to second in the Clausura and you would have never guessed that they would be this good after a rough Apertura that saw Diego Cocca fired as manager and Benjamin Galindo hired as his replacement. Under Galindo, though, they have been tremendous. They are the highest scoring team in the Clausura and not only does Oribe Peralta have seven goals there, but he and Herculez Gomez are joint-top scorers in the Champions League.
With the way that Santos score and Monterrey's strike force, the two-legged final is sure to be filled with goals and with the away goals rule in effect, Santos will not go searching for a draw in the first leg. Fireworks!
Monterrey vs. Santos Laguna, CONCACAF Champions League Final First Leg
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, April 17, 10:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Estadio Tecnologico, Monterrey, Mexico
TV: Fox Soccer Channel (USA English), Telefutura (USA Spanish)