The Central American teams left in the competition face off in the first leg of a quarterfinal when the CONCACAF Champions League returns to action Monday.The Costa Rican champion plays host to Panamanian opposition when Alajuelense welcomes Arabe Unido for the first leg of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal Monday.
Both teams are relatively well positioned in their current league campaigns, with Liga sitting in third, four points off leaders Herediano with a game in hand. Arabe Unido, in the competition after winning the winter 2012 tournament, has slumped to two straight losses and sits fourth but is just three points off the mark and will attribute Saturday's loss to resting key contributors ahead of the early-week clash.
The hosts are experiencing no such slump. They've lost just twice this tournament and come in on a six-match unbeaten run. Though the match pits a Costa Rican side against one from Panama and both sides are comprised largely of domestic players, Honduran import Jerry Palacios will be the man to watch. The forward has scored a double in the previous two Alajuelense matches and was also on the mark for los Catrachos midweek in a friendly.
Both of these clubs took out larger opposition to get to this stage, Alajuelense emerging from Group 4 by beating Mexican giants Club America 1-0 in both legs, including a win at Estadio Azteca which saw Palacios score the winner. Arabe Unido beat Houston Dynamo of MLS on the final matchday to get out of Group 1. Jair Palacios, Arabe's Colombian manager, has proven himself with his big-match decisions, but will have to do without several players who helped get past the group stage. A pair of 20-year-olds, Joel Barcenas and Abdiel Arroyo, have led the attack in this tournament. He'll need them to cope with the crowd at the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto Scotiabank and the (sometimes) bright light of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Armando Alonso, Jorge David and Dexter Lewis are on Oscar Ramirez's injury list. Juan De Gracia is cap tied to San Miguelito and is unavailable for Arabe Unido.