They’ve seen off the ‘Blue Wave’ of Al Hilal and now it’s the ‘Blue Cross’ – Mexican outfit Cruz Azul – Western Sydney Wanderers FC are looking to bring down on the international stage.
The Wanderers’ stunning AFC Champions League success has earned the club a berth at next month’s Club World Cup in Morocco and a meeting with the Mexican giants.
And the winner of huge clash will take on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez in a mammoth semi-final against Real Madrid.
But first things first for the Wanderers.
Cruz Azul are one of Mexico’s most successful clubs, having won 19 major trophies, including six continental titles to be the most successful club in CONCACAF Champions League history.
They have been domestic champions on eight occasions, trailing only Toluca with 10, Club América (11) andGuadalajara (11).
Among their other achievements include becoming the first Mexican side to reach the final of the prestigious Copa Libertadores in 2001, going down to Boca Juniors from Argentina.
Cruz Azul’s squad is filled with some of Mexico’s best players, with a smattering of quality imports.
Argentine pair Mauro Formica and Mariano Pavone are two of those superstar foreigners, while Ecuadorian Joao Robin Rojas Mendoza is a powerful striker who has a strong partnership with Pavone in attack.
Nicknames: La Maquina (The Machine) and El Azul (The Blues)
Major Titles: 8 Mexican Primera , 6 CONCACAF Champions League
Ground: Estadio Azul, which has a capacity of 35,161
Manager: Luis Fernando Tena
The Mexican is well-regarded at the club, currently in his fourth different stint as head coach starting way back in 1997. Tena lead the club to the title in that year and was also at the helm for their Champions League success earlier this season.
Captain: Gerardo Torrado
The no-nonsense midfielder is one of Mexico’s most decorated players, having made 146 appearances for the national team in a 14-year international career, which included three World Cups. Has had stints in Spain with Sevilla and Real Sociedad before joining Cruz Azul in 2005 and becoming a key component of the squad.
Star player/s: Mauro Formica and Mariano Pavone
The Argentine duo provides the class and x-factor through the spine of the Cruz Azul line-up.
Formica – nicknamed the ‘Cat’ – is the playmaker of the side and has loads of quality coming through the ranks at Newell’s Old Boys before moving to Premier League club Blackburn Rovers. Was a central figure in the club’s Champions League success.
The diminutive Pavone has scored 40 times for the club in just 98 appearances for the club. He might only be 177cms tall but has great close control and the pace to get in behind defences, which is his big strength.