FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2006

10 December - 17 December

FIFA Club World Cup 2006

High hopes for Saprissa and Mexico's big guns

America and Toluca, two of Mexican football's biggest names, will be hoping to seal their places in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup semi-finals this week, with 2005 champions Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica looking to join them.

America recorded a 2-1 win over Jamaica's Portmore United in their quarter-final first-leg in Houston, Texas, two weeks ago. Kemeel Wolfe had given United a first-half lead, but the Azulcremas fought back strongly after the restart with goals from Miguel Angel Zepeda and Aaron Padilla. The Mexico City side, who appointed ex-Tricolor boss Manuel Lapuente coach this week, host the Caribbean outfit in the return leg at the Azteca Stadium on Wednesday.

Despite some indifferent league form, the 2005 Apertura champions are widely expected to put their domestic woes behind them and confirm their status as one of the favourites to take the confederation's premier club competition.

The club that deposed them as Mexican title holders, Toluca, another of the country's footballing powerhouses, take a two-goal lead into their second leg away to Olimpia of Honduras at the Nemesio Díez Stadium.

In the first leg, the side coached by Argentine Americo Gallego eased to a 2-0 victory despite fielding what was virtually a reserve team. Gallego's fellow countryman Rodrigo Díaz opened the scoring, with Jose Cruzalta adding a second. Toluca go into Wednesday's return fixture with renewed confidence after Saturday's fine win over Atlas of Guadalajara, a result which brought to an end a worrying four-game losing streak in the Mexican league. 

Saprissa hungry for more
Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa, the 2005 CONCACAF Champions' Cup winners and the third-placed side at last December's FIFA Club World Championship in Japan, face reigning USA champions Los Angeles Galaxy in the second leg of their quarter-final tie.

The two sides fought out a goalless draw at the Home Depot Center two weeks ago and are set to do battle again at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa with a prized semi-final place at stake. As well as being virtually unbeatable at their San Jose fortress, the Purple Monster have also produced some excellent performances in international competitions over the last twelve months, and are firm favourites to advance on Wednesday.

The last of the quarter-final match-ups sees another Costa Rica-USA clash, as Saprissa's domestic rivals Alajuelense take on New England Revolution.

The North Americans had to be content with a goalless draw in the first-leg at the National Sports Centre in Hamilton, Bermuda, and will need to produce something special at the Alejandro Morera Soto Stadium in Alajuela if they are to deny the home side a last-four spot.

The semi-finals take place at the end of the month, with the first legs set for 21 and 23 March, and the return fixtures a week later. The final will be played over two legs on 11 and 20 April.

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