In-form Pachuca wary of Olimpia challenge

Action from the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League match between host Pachuca (white/blue jersey) and Olimpia on August 2, 2016, in Pachuca, Mexico. (Photo: Mexsport)

PACHUCA, Mexico – A spot in the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League will be on the line Wednesday, when Mexico’s Pachuca (3W-0D-0L, 9 points) faces host Olimpia (2-0-1, 6).

The sides are battling to determine the Group E winner, with Pachuca needing only to avoid a loss by two goals or more to progress to the knockout stage.  Having scored at least two goals in its last six games in all competitions, however, Olimpia is very much a threat to earn its third-ever quarterfinal berth. 

Two years ago, the Honduran power beat the visiting Portland Timbers, 3-1, on the last day of group play and advanced on head-to-head away goals (2-1).

Pachuca head coach Diego Alonso is taking nothing for granted, especially since his Tuzos edged past an Olimpia side missing numerous players to Olympic Games duty by a narrow 1-0 score in their first meeting on August 2.

“It is the most important match of the year,” said Alonso.  “I don’t know if I’m going to repeat the same team.  One always watches and looks to put on the best ones to play.

After a 3-0 win over Santos on Saturday, Pachuca sits second in the 2016 Liga MX Apertura.  In victory, Franco Jara scored two goals and Hirving Lozano -- the SCCL’s joint-top scorer on five goals with the Vancouver Whitecaps’ Cristian Techera -- added the other.  Alonso, though, will study his personnel options before making any decisions on a starting XI.

“One evaluates and gives minutes when considering who is ready,” he finished.  “But you have to analyze it well because it is the most important match of the year.”

Pachuca has reached the quarterfinals in each of its previous two SCCL appearances, capturing the title in 2009/10.