Mexico’s Cruz Azul and Pachuca square off on Wednesday evening in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final. The prize for the victors is a place at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010.

Cruz Azul took their place in the final after topping Group C, which they shared with the USA’s Columbus Crew, Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica and Puerto Rico Islanders. They then knocked out Arabe Unido of Panama in the last eight and compatriots Pumas in the semis.

Pachuca came out on top in Group A, overcoming Arabe Unido, American outfit Houston Dynamo and Isidro Metapan of El Salvador before going on to defeat Guatemala’s Comunicaciones in the quarter-finals and fellow Mexicans Toluca in the semi-final.

We’ll be playing Cruz Azul on three Wednesdays in a row but this is the final, and it’s hugely important.

Pachuca coach Rivarola

The two finalists warmed up for their first-leg showdown at the Estadio Azul in Mexico City by playing out a 2-2 draw in the league last Wednesday.

The two-legged decider gives Los Celestes a welcome opportunity to end their miserable run of three successive defeats in finals in the last two years, two of them in the league and the other in last season’s Champions League.

“I can’t wait for the final and I know all about Cruz Azul’s recent history and the finals they’ve lost,” commented their Argentinian striker Maximiliano Biancucchi earlier this year. “Maybe the players who’ve already lost a final with Cruz Azul will feel differently, but I’m going to be so happy if I end up winning the CONCACAF.”

Pachuca eye hat-trick
Opponents Pachuca are aiming to book a ticket to the FIFA Club World Cup for the third time in their history, having rubbed shoulders with fellow continental champions in 2007 and 2008. The man in charge of Los Tuzos on both occasions was Enrique Meza, who is now plotting their downfall with Cruz Azul.

Like Los Celestes, Pachuca have been in indifferent form in the league. Both sides are in danger of missing out on the eight-team championship play-offs, all of which makes success in the CONCACAF showdown even more vital.

“Every game is different,” says Meza’s Argentinian replacement Guillermo Rivarola. “We’ll be playing Cruz Azul on three Wednesdays in a row but this is the final, and it’s hugely important.”