The hosts have made a habit of turning around ties but will be without that luxury — and starting goalkeeper Jesus Corona — in the CONCACAF Champions League final.
Two Mexican teams in the final is nothing new for the tournament, with this year marking the fifth time in its six-year history two teams from la Tierra Azteca have met to decide the spoils.
|CONCACAF Champions League Finals|
|Atlante 2-0||Cruz Azul||2008-09|
|Pachuca 2-2||Cruz Azul
The travel definitely won't be too strenuous, with the clubs separated by little more than 60 kilometers, but then again hardly anything has seemed tough for the finalists this season. Toluca was taken to the wire by the San Jose Earthquakes but won the quarterfinal in a penalty shootout in its only real test. It arrived in the final by way of a controlling 3-0 aggregate win against Alajuelense of Costa Rica. The Red Devils sit second domestically in Liga MX, looking up only at their Champions League rivals.
Cruz Azul similarly has faced little adversity on the road to the final, easily overturning 1-0 first-leg deficits in the quarterfinal and semifinal. La Maquina Azul no longer has the luxury of hosting the second leg and can't afford to drop tonight's match at Estadio Azul.
It'll have to avoid defeat without goalkeeper Jesus Corona, who was given a red card for his role in a fracas after the 2-0 win against Tijuana in the second leg of the semifinal. The federation annonuced Tuesday that he will be banned two matches in addition to the mandatory one-match ban for a red card, meaning the shot stopper will miss both legs and the first match of the Club World Cup if Cruz Azul triumphs.
The onus falls to Guillermo Allison, who got a run out in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Pachuca as Luis Fernando Tena rested his starters. The 23-year-old keeper has faced Toluca before, saving a last-minute penalty in his Liga MX debut in September to preserve a 2-1 victory in the Apertura.
However, he'll have to repel an attack that has certainly found its form. Issac Brizuela has been tremendous in the Clausura and will almost certainly head to the World Cup this summer. He'll line up on the right side of midfield. Raul Nava is the leading scorer in the competition with seven goals but may come on as a substitute with Paraguayan Pablo Velasquez the team's leading scorer in the Clausura.
Allison won't have to cope with injured Sinha, but the Red Devils have so far been unmolested by his absence caused by a mid-March knee injury.
If the young keeper can come up big, Cruz Azul's attack featuring Marco Fabian, Mariano Pavone and Joao Rojas may be able to give it the upper hand as both teams seek out their first CONCACAF Champions League title. If not, it will have a mountain to overcome next week at the Estadio Nemesio Diez.