Olimpia and Newell’s lead race to Copa final
© AFP

Three-time Copa Libertadores champions Olimpia and two-time finalists Newell’s Old Boys both hold 2-0 leads going into their second legs of this year’s semi-finals, though opponents Santa Fe and Atletico-MG respectively both have excellent home records this campaign. Could this prove decisive as the latter pair attempt to turn things around and reach a first ever Libertadores final? FIFA.com takes a closer look at the action ahead.

The matches

Semi-final second legs

Tuesday 9 July
Santa Fe (COL) - Olimpia (PAR) (0-2)

Wednesday 10 July
Atletico-MG (BRA) - Newell’s Old Boys (ARG) (0-2)

The stakes
Santa Fe - Olimpia

A more emphatic display than the 2-0 scoreline suggests, Olimpia’s victory in the first leg has given them the opportunity to head to Colombia holding a valuable, if not yet decisive, lead. Indeed, Santa Fe have won their last four Libertadores encounters in Bogota and nor have they conceded in 446 minutes of Copa action on home soil. Moreover, the club have also already booked themselves a berth in the domestic Apertura 2013 final.

Olimpia, for their part, have been handed a boost by the speedy recovery of four-goal Juan Carlos Ferreyra, the Argentinian having picked up a knock in the first leg, with Ferreyra potentially coming in for the suspended Juan Manuel Salgueiro in attack. And despite Santa Fe’s formidable home form, El Decano followers can point to their side scoring in all but one of their five away games in this year’s Copa.

Player to watch
Omar Perez (Santa Fe)

The Argentinian schemer has been a key cog in Los Cardenales’ machine since touching down at the club in 2009. Thanks in good measure to the No10’s creative gifts, the Colombian outfit have won three domestic titles in his time at the club, while Perez also enjoys a fine Libertadores pedigree – having won the competition with Boca Juniors in 2000 and 2001. Could his experience help Santa Fe turn this tie around?

The stat
24
– The number of years that have passed since Olimpia last played a Libertadores match in Bogota. On that occasion, with the club’s current coach Ever Almeida between the sticks, El Decano met Medellin side Atletico Nacional in the second leg of the 1989 final. Also leading 2-0 from the first leg, Olimpia were beaten by the same scoreline in the return and edged out by Atletico after a memorable penalty shoot-out.

52 – The number of years since Santa Fe last played in the final four of the Libertadores. Back then, in the 1961 edition, they lost out to Brazil’s Palmeiras 6-3 on aggregate.

The words
“We can turn this result around. We’ve got what it takes, but we’ll need to play the perfect match,” Wilder Medina, Santa Fe forward. 

“We know that we’re up against a very good team, who play very good football and who’ll make it very difficult for us. But we don’t know how to play for a draw: we’ll be going out to win the game as usual,” Wilson Pittoni, Olimpia midfielder.

Atletico-MG  - Newell’s Old Boys

Atletico-MG have had to endure a 35-year wait to return to the last four of the Libertadores, so you can be sure they will not bow out without a fight. However, they will need to show much more grit and determination in Wednesday’s return to knock out a Newell’s side that, in addition to their two-goal aggregate lead, have drawn and won on their last two trips away from Rosario.

O Galo are unbeaten at home in this year’s Copa, with a record of four wins and a draw in five encounters, though they have conceded at least once in each of those games. Should their defence be breached again on this occasion, they will require at least four goals to go through to the final.

The Brazilian outfit will thus need to find a way of keeping things tight at the back while fully unleashing the attacking potential of on-form duo Diego Tardelli and Jo – scorers of a combined 12 Libertadores goals so far.

Player to watch
Ronaldinho (Atletico-MG)

To secure a remarkable turnaround against Newell’s, there is no doubt that O Galo need Ronaldinho to be at his inspirational best, with the first leg in Argentina largely passing him by. In addition to his undisputed status as Atletico’s leading man, in terms of both team spirit and footballing cohesion, his influence can also be translated into hard stats. Nigh on a quarter (24 per cent) of the team’s 25-goal tally have come from Ronaldinho assists, which should again make his contribution key against Los Rosarinos’ solid rearguard.

The stat
4
– The number of consecutive Copas in which the team with the best record from group phase has failed to reach the final. The last club to do so were Fluminense in 2008, when they finished runners-up to Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito. Atletico-MG will therefore be aiming to break a jinx subsequently suffered by fellow Brasileiro outfits Gremio, Corinthians, Cruzeiro and Flu once more.

3 – This is the third time Newell’s have reached the Libertadores semi-finals and the third time they have played the second leg away from home. After reaching the final on both previous occasions, La Lepra will be confident of doing so again – particularly as they are unbeaten in the knockout phase (three wins and two draws).

The words
“We’re dreaming about the Newell’s game, we’re living and breathing it. It’s the most important game in the careers of many of the lads here, mine included, and the biggest match in the club’s history. Any and every sacrifice is worth making for O Galo,” Victor, Atletico-MG goalkeeper.

“Despite the 2-0 lead we’ll be going out to attack Atletico, because that’ll make life uncomfortable for them,” Gerardo Martino, Newell’s Old Boys coach.