Action from the Panamanian Apertura regular-season match between visiting Plaza Amador (blue jersey) and Arabe Unido on October 8, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Liga Panameña de Fútbol)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – A berth in the 2017/18 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League will be at stake Saturday night, when Arabe Unido and Plaza Amador meet in the 2016 Panamanian Apertura final at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez.
It seems almost fitting that they should be the last two left standing following the battles of 18 regular-season games and two semifinal encounters each. After all, Arabe and Plaza were Panama’s representatives in the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League. Lifting the domestic trophy and earning a return to the international stage are the clear objectives.
With a place in next year’s SCCL quarterfinals already assured – thanks in a large part to two historic wins over three-time champion Monterrey -- Arabe Unido’s 2016 can already be considered a success. An opportunity to prevent Plaza Amador from repeating, however, serves as motivation.
“We’re happy to once again be in the final,” said Arabe head coach Sergio Guzman at a press conference on Thursday. “We are eager to return to a final and we will try to get our 15th star. I believe in my team. I believe in my fans and I know that we will be able to obtain big things for Árabe Unido.
"The work is already done. My technical staff tried not to demand too much this week, but made some adjustments.”
Once again, a nearly impenetrable defense has been Plaza Amador’s key feature in what could be back-to-back crowns. It conceded a league-low eight goals during the regular season and kept two clean sheets against Chorrillo in the semifinals.
“We have worked hard to defend the championship,” Plaza head coach Jair Palacios expressed. “We are prepared to face Arabe Unido. We take on one of the best teams in domestic football. The coaches play until Friday, the players play Saturday.”
Regardless of which team lifts the trophy, either Arabe Unido or Plaza Amador will be the champion of Panama for a fourth consecutive time.