Champions League Preview: 2012-13 Group Stage, Matchday 6
Posted on October 23, 2012 5:06 pm
At this point, only three teams have guaranteed their place in the knockout round. With one game left, all of them still have work to do in order to climb the rankings, while the remaining five CONCACAF Champions League matches comprise de facto finals between the clubs defending their perch atop the group and the challengers clawing and scrapping for continental survival.
How much more excitement could you want?
With so many candidates for Match of the Round, I decided to try something different for this ultimate matchday. Before we get to that, here are the fixtures for this week, with group and home team listed first (all times EDT).
Tuesday, October 23:
3 – Houston Dynamo (USA) vs. Olimpia (HON), 8:00 p.m.
2 – Real Salt Lake (USA) vs. Herediano (CRC), 10:00 p.m.
7 – Chorrillo FC (PAN) vs. CF Monterrey (MEX), 10:00 p.m.
Wednesday, October 24:
1 – Santos Laguna (MEX) vs. Toronto FC (CAN), 8:00 p.m.
4 – Seattle Sounders (USA) vs. Marathón (HON), 10:00 p.m.
6 – Tigres UANL (MEX) vs. LD Alajuelense (CRC), 10:00 p.m.
Thursday, October 25:
5 – Isidro Metapán (SLV) vs. LA Galaxy (USA), 10:00 p.m.
8 – Chivas de Guadalajara (MEX) vs. Xelajú MC (GUA), 10:00 p.m.
All of the matches involving MLS teams will be broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel in the US, and Sportsnet One will carry Toronto FC’s last meaningful match of 2012 in Canada. The Tigres and Chivas games will also be shown on Galavision in the US; and all eight will be streamed on CONCACAF TV, subject to regional blackout restrictions. Lastly, I still have yet to locate TV listings for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, so those of you reliant on Fox Sports LA will just have to tune in and find out what they are showing at that time.
Now then, let us evaluate the predictions I made following the draw for this round, to see which ones panned out.
Prediction: Santos Laguna would win the group, but struggle on the road and end up with a low ranking.
Outcome: So much for the away-game woes: Santos Laguna flew their best team out to Toronto, dominated possession at BMO Field and deservedly snatched a late 3-1 victory. Coach Benjamin Galindo opted to send the reserves down to El Salvador; the 4-0 victory against the embarrassingly overmatched Aguila fully justified his confidence. Only losing by three goals (or 2-4 or higher) at home to the Canadians would eliminate the guerreros, but I imagine they have greater designs on hoarding all three points and sealing the top ranking among group leaders, good for hosting the second leg through the entire knockout round.
Prediction: Real Salt Lake would advance without much trouble.
Outcome: I previously addressed the incredible show of character by the Herediano squad to maintain their competitiveness, in spite of the financial and organizational struggles threatening to sink their club. On the field, they kept pace ahead of Jason Kreis’ side, and only a loss by two or more goals or a 0-1 setback will prevent the florenses from extending their improbable Champions League run into the next year.
Prediction: Olimpia would outperform Houston in El Salvador, split the series with the Texans and reach the quarterfinals.
Outcome: I could appeal to the horrid weather conditions in which Olimpia slipped up against FAS at the Estadio Cuscatlan; nonetheless, the record shows that the Dynamo escaped the same venue with a victory and el Leon did not. Olimpia now require a victory in BBVA Stadium to move on; Houston have yet to lose at the new venue, though. Even if the Hondurans were to pull it off, they would reach the knockout round on seven points and face an almost certain showdown with one of tournament favorites in the quarterfinals.
Prediction: The Seattle Sounders would win the group handily.
Outcome:…and they have. The only task left to fulfill is to defeat Marathon at home, finish no lower than fourth in the rankings and play the second leg of their quarterfinal series at CenturyLink Field.
Prediction: The LA Galaxy would win the group and compete for a top-three ranking.
Outcome: The basic goal was reached when Isidro Metapan sputtered to a 3-0 defeat in Puerto Rico. The Galaxy’s own slip-up in Bayamon, though, leaves the defending MLS champions in need of a victory in the tricky confines of the Estadio Jorge Calero Suarez, plus outside help, to earn a top-four ranking.
Prediction: Alajuelense would take advantage of Tigres coach Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti’s ambivalence towards international competitions to pull off an upset and win the group.
Outcome: My prediction was in serious danger halfway through the group, as “Liga” only barely avoided losing to the Tigres’ reserve squad at home. The regiomontanos subsequently slipped up in Nicaragua, however, providing Alajuelense the opportunity to move into first place ahead of their final showdown at the Volcan. If the manudos can avoid defeat, they will reach the knockout round for the first time in three attempts, but in order to do so they must become the first non-Mexican team in CCL history to eliminate an azteca club.
Prediction: Monterrey would struggle in Central America, but reach the knockout round regardless.
Outcome: Monterrey did scrape out a bare 1-0 victory in Guatemala, but that result opened up the possibility of winning the group early when they next faced Municipal at the Estadio Tecnologico. The bicampeones took full advantage of the opportunity, with a comfortable 3-0 win extending their title defense; and if Santos take their foot off the pedal against Toronto, the rayados could very well slip past them and grab the number one ranking with a win against the eliminated Chorrillo.
Prediction: Chivas, starving for success with only a Copa Libertadores Final appearance to show for the last six years (nothing to sneeze at, of course), would take care of business and win the group.
Outcome: Not so fast. Xelaju downed Chivas 1-0 in Guatemala, and matched the Mexicans in their respective series with W Connection of Trinidad and Tobago. Marco Fabian and co. remain favorites to advance, but they face a similar assignment to that of RSL: win 1-0 or by two goals, as anything less will condemn Mexico’s most popular club to a humiliatingly early Champions League exit.
Be sure to check back on BigSoccer at the conclusion of Thursday’s matches, as I will track the final knockout-round bracket and provide analysis of the next steps on the Road to Morocco.