Santos Laguna v Cruz Azul
Just a warning to anyone who runs a sporting competition out there – adding the words ‘Champions’ and ‘League’ (or any derivative of them) to the name of your event isn’t guaranteed to all of a sudden make people like your competition a lot more. It’s worked for a few competitions here and there, but try as you might, the ‘European Table Tennis Champions League’ isn’t going to see an entire continent tune in for their dose of top class ping-pong every Tuesday and Wednesday evening. Case and point is the CONCACAF Champions League, North and Central America’s poor imitation of sincere flattery.
In one shape or form, it’s a competition that has been going for almost 50 years. It’s the same age as Vanessa Feltz and that seemingly random piece of trivia is actually a way of illustrating how popular it is – not very. At one point in the competition’s history, the organisers weren’t arsed putting together a playoff to determine a single winner so named three teams as that season’s champions. It’s not quite as laughable in it’s current incarnation, but not by much. Amongst the majority of clubs contractually obliged to take part, it’s not a priority. If your team of reserves and youngsters are good enough to negotiate the long-winded group stages and make it through to the knock-out stage, then you might take it seriously, but it’s no big deal if you don’t make it that far.
Robbie Savage loved the CONCACAF Champions League
Santos Laguna are on the verge of elimination after a 2-0 loss in the first leg of their all Mexican quarter-final tie with Cruz Azul. ‘Boo hoo’ isn’t a sound that’s been heard a whole lot around the club this week, partially because they don’t especially care and partially because they’ve got a chance to comeback in the second leg. It’s not quite a forgone conclusion of ‘being 4-0 down to Arsenal with about 20 minutes to play’ proportions, but it’s not far off. The club doesn’t have the history of some of Mexico’s bigger teams, but that lack of tradition hasn’t stopped them competing for league titles – most recently when they lost in the final of the Apertura league championship in December. They’ve also recently announced a partnership with Celtic. Under the terms of the deal, Celtic will get first dibs on the young talent produced by the club and in return Santos will receive some of the Bhoys’ chief export – vitriol aimed at referees.
Cruz Azul are possibly the exception to the ‘not taking the CONCACAF Champions League seriously’ rule. They’ve won it five times, including a hat-trick of titles between 1969 and 1971. More recently however, they’ve developed quite a talent for falling at the last hurdle. They contrived to lose both the 2009 and 2010 finals. They’ve given themselves a decent chance thanks to that first leg victory and with Emanuel Villa in their ranks, they’ll fancy their chances of closing it out in the second leg. Anyone recalling his time at Derby will think we’re being bitterly sarcastic, but in Mexico he’s quite the hotshot. Seriously.
Santos Laguna and Cruz Azul do battle in arguably North and Central America’s 41st most important competition at 1am on Wednesday morning and if you’ve got nothing better to do with your time, you can watch it live on PaddyPower.com. But don’t worry, we’ve also got some good stuff coming up soon.