Date: Thursday, February 22
Time: 5:00pm Pacific, 7:00pm Central, 8:00pm Eastern
Venue: Estadio Cibao FC, Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic
TV: Univision Deportes Network(US - Spanish), Fox Sports 2 (Mexico)
Streaming: fuboTV (Free trial + monthly subscription)
Chivas will make their first appearance in the Champions League since the 2012-13 edition, where they didn’t make it past the group stage. El Rebaño Sagrado have been struggling to get the ball in the net in the Liga, having scored just nine goals, tied for fourth-fewest in the league. Facing a significantly weaker Cibao FC side could be a great opportunity for the squad to score a lot, gain some confidence on the offensive side of things and hope that it translates over to the league.
Players to Watch: It’s still unclear who exactly coach Matias Almeyda will start, but Chivas will be bringing their regular rotation of players that play in the league. If Almeyda decides to start or give big minutes to some of Chivas’ young guns, keep an eye out for 18-year-old Jose Juan Macias and 21-year-old Ronaldo Cisneros. Macias has already proven of being capable of scoring some fantastic goals for the club (see below), and Cisneros was left on the bench against Pachuca. This might give the Santos Laguna-made forward a chance for more minutes and more time to shine. Both Macias and Cisneros were chosen to represent Mexico earlier this week as part of the U-20 and U-21 sides, respectively.
Cibao FC are clearly the underdogs in the entire tournament. The Dominican club, founded in 2015 in a country where soccer is not the major sport, qualified for this tournament after defeating Trinidadian side San Juan Jabloteh, 1-0, and winning their first ever Caribbean Club Championship in 2017. Cibao finished as the top team in the 2017 Liga Dominicana but were ultimately eliminated in the semi-finals. The team is coached by a familiar face for Chivas, the Mexican-born Catalan Albert Benaiges, who ran the youth system for the club for a short time in 2014. Benaiges also coached and coordinated FC Barcelona’s famed La Masia for over two decades and had some pretty nice words to say about Chivas’ star midfielder Javier Eduardo “Chofis” Lopez.
Albert Benaiges, former coordinator of La Masia who found players like Andres Iniesta, said this about Chofis:— Mex Nex Gen (@MexNexGen) February 21, 2018
“Chofis is a Messi with a little less speed, he plays a lot like him when he plays with his left foot.” pic.twitter.com/nQmgURPBkE
Player to Watch: Cherenfant “Babalito” Woodensky is the club’s main scoring threat. Babalito had a third-best nine goals last season for Cibao and co-led the 2017 Caribbean Club Championship in scoring with seven goals.