Mexico host Costa Rica at Azteca Stadium on Saturday in a key 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier with manager Sven-Goran Eriksson under fire and perhaps needing a win to extend his tenure.
A string of poor results, including a 2-0 defeat in the USA to open the six-nation final round of South Africa 2010 qualifying, has put Eriksson in the hot-seat, although his players have leapt to his defence.
"In his time it was Hugo Sanchez, and we tried to help him and we couldn't unfortunately. That's how football is," Stuttgart defender Ricardo Osorio said. "Now it's Eriksson's turn, and we have to support him and hopefully things will turn out because he's a great person."
Mexico will be without captain Rafael Marquez, who was sent off against the United States and dealt a two-game ban. While Marquez has voiced the opinion that it is "almost impossible" that Mexico will lose at home, Costa Rica arrive for the match buoyed by the memory of their massive upset of Mexico at the Azteca in 2001 - to date their only home defeat in a FIFA World Cup qualifier.
"The Costa Ricans are talking a lot about repeating that feat," Osorio said. "That's OK. If they come to play, good. But if they are coming in search of a repeat they won't have much to talk about."
But Costa Rica have more recent successes to draw on, including a 2-0 victory over Honduras in their final-phase opener in February - when Trinidad and Tobago played to a 2-2 draw with El Salvador.
On Saturday, El Salvador host the United States and Trinidad and Tobago host Honduras with all six teams slated for action again four days later. On 1 April, the United States host Trinidad and Tobago, Honduras host Mexico and Costa Rica host El Salvador.
"These next two matches are very important in our efforts to qualify," US head coach Bob Bradley said. "The games against El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago represent a big opportunity to solidify our place in the group. We had a fantastic team effort against Mexico, and if we put in the same type of performance we are confident of being able to get results."
All 11 starters in the 2-0 victory over Mexico return for the two-game set, including Michael Bradley, who scored both goals. The Americans also welcome back Landon Donovan, who says he learned valuable lessons in his loan spell with Bayern Munich that ended earlier this month.
Trinidad and Tobago will be without several key players due to disciplinary action when they host Honduras, including veteran Dwight Yorke who was slapped with a four-match ban using abusive language toward the referee in the match at El Salvador. The Trinidad federation has appealed the ban, which would keep Yorke out of qualifying action until June.
Chris Birchall and Clayton Ince are also out after receiving second yellow cards in the qualifying campaign, although both will be back against the United States next week. The top three teams from the final "hexagonal" round will advance directly to the FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa, while the fourth-placed team will play-off for a berth against the fifth-placed team from South America.