History is in the making when Liga de Quito and America face off for the second time in a week in Quito this evening. A place in the final of the Copa Libertadores is the prize at stake for the two sides, neither of whom have gone that far in the competition before.
And after their 1-1 draw in the first leg at the Estadio Azteca, there is still everything to play for. FIFA.com sets the scene for what promises to be a dramatic evening.
Liga de Quito-America, Estadio Casa Blanca, Tuesday 3 June, 20.10 (local time)
Last Tuesday's meeting showed there would be little to choose between two teams anxious to pen new pages in their respective country's footballing history. Liga de Quito are aiming to become only the second Ecuadorian side to reach the final after Barcelona, who went all the way in 1990 and 1998, while the last Mexican outfit to get that far was Cruz Azul in 2001. Both Barcelona and Cruz Azul came up short in their final engagements, however, creating an added incentive for Tuesday night's combatants.
Losing semi-finalists in 2001 against Rosario Central, Los Albos have the edge going into the Quito showdown. Not only did they grab a crucial away goal at the Azteca, they have also gone over two years without suffering a Libertadores defeat at home, that last reverse coming on 2 February 2006, when Velez Sarsfield left the Casa Blanca with a 3-1 win.
Not that Edgardo Bauza's side should be counting their chickens. Las Águilas have slipped up at home before this season and still managed to recover their poise on the road, nowhere more impressively than at the Maracana where they pulled off an unlikely 3-0 win over Flamengo to complete an amazing 5-4 aggregate win in the last 16. That never-say-die attitude, coupled with the predatory instincts of Salvador Cabanas, mean coach Juan Antonio Luna has plenty of reasons to believe this could yet be America's night.
Even more encouragingly for the visitors, Liga de Quito goal-getter Luis Bolanos is suspended for the second leg, although the Mexicans will themselves have to do without Sebastian Dominguez and the injured Alejandro Arguello.
Will the Ecuadorians be able to handle the pressure and control proceedings at their virtually impregnable fortress? Can Cabanas' unerring eye for goal inspire America to yet another improbable success on enemy territory? Whatever the answer to those questions, there is little doubt that nerves will play their part at some point. And while the Ecuadorians seemed cool enough seven days ago, America have developed an ability to unsettle even the most confident of hosts.
What they said
"We're not going to change our approach just because we drew in the first leg and because it's a semi-final. We need to forget about the atmosphere and concentrate on the 90 minutes in front of us. Why haven't we been practising penalty kicks? That's something I never do. There's a world of difference between taking them in training and then in front of 50,000 people. We hope we won't need to go that far anyway," Liga de Quito coach Edgardo Bauza.
"This game is a dream for all of us, one of those matches where you hope everything goes according to plan. We have to be completely focused for the full 90 minutes because they're a very dynamic side with some fast runners. Those are their strong points," America defender Oscar Rojas.
Previous Copa Libertadores meetings
Group phase - 2000
14 March: America 1-0 Liga de Quito
19 April: LDU 2-2 America
Copa Libertadores 2008, semi-final, first leg
27 May: America 1-1 Liga de Quito