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Santos Laguna, Monarcas Morelia Start CONCACAF Champions League Journey This Week

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BRIDGEVIEW IL - JULY 17: Miguel Sabah #9 of Monarcas Morelia moves to shoot past Fernando Espinosa #16 of Pumas UNAM during a SuperLiga 2010 match at Toyota Park on July 17 2010 in Bridgeview Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
BRIDGEVIEW IL - JULY 17: Miguel Sabah #9 of Monarcas Morelia moves to shoot past Fernando Espinosa #16 of Pumas UNAM during a SuperLiga 2010 match at Toyota Park on July 17 2010 in Bridgeview Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Both Pumas UNAM and Monterrey have been dropped directly into the group stages of the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League, but the Mexican Primera's other two representatives in the competition were not so fortunate. The two runners-up in last year's two tournaments have to make it into the tournament through the qualifying rounds, which started Tuesday. Santos has a tough opponent in Olimpia tonight, while Morelia has an easier road against Tempete starting on Thursday.

Morelia and Santos both have a history of starting this competition by playing their second teams, then busting out the stars for the knockout rounds. Tempete shouldn't pose too much of a threat to Morelia's second team, but Santos will have to think twice about benching their stars. Olimpia are no pushovers, and are actually better than a couple of the teams who have qualified directly for the group stages. Santos used a complete second team in most of their games last year, but they will likely get knocked out if they do the same in this tie.

Santos plays Atlante at home this weekend, then away in Chiapas vs. Jaguares in their match after the second leg of their qualifying tie. Neither game is a walkover by any stretch of the imagination, but it could be a lot worse. I expect to see a mix of first team and backup players in all for of the next four games for Santos.

Santos plays Olimpia tonight at 10:00 pm ET. You can catch the match between Morelia and Tempete at 8:00 pm ET on Thursday.