The winners of the 50th edition of the Copa Libertadores will be revealed tonight, when Cruzeiro host Estudiantes at the Mineirao in Belo Horizonte. FIFA.com previews the second leg of a tie which is perfectly balanced at 0-0, with continental glory and a place alongside Barcelona, among others, at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009 at stake.
Cruzeiro (BRA) - Estudiantes LP (ARG)
Wednesday 15 July, Estadio Mineirao (Belo Horizonte) - 21.50 (local time)
The time for talking is over and just 90 minutes separate the two teams from lifting the coveted Libertadores trophy. A Raposa boast home advantage and they will be buoyed by having won all their games in Minas Gerais during this year's competition, scoring 13 and conceding just two in the process. But El Pincha are no slouches on their travels, picking up victories in their last two Libertadores encounters away from La Plata.
Both sides should be well rested going into Wednesday's decisive second leg, and neither has players ruled out through suspension. Cruzeiro coach Adilson Batista chose to send out a reserve team in a 3-0 reverse by arch-enemies Atletico Mineiro at the weekend, while counterpart Alejandro Sabella had no such concerns, given the Argentinian league ended ten days ago.
Ramires vs. Juan Sebastian Veron
The Mineirao's vast playing surface should play host to an intriguing midfield contest which pits the speed and athleticism of the Brazilian against the Argentinian's intelligence and flashes of game-turning brilliance. Ramires put in a fine display in the first leg, despite coming fresh from Brazil's successful FIFA Confederations Cup campaign, while La Brujita continues to weave the magic that earned him his recall to the Argentina squad.
The opening 15 minutes could prove vital to the final result, with A Raposa sure to chase an early goal to settle the home fans and visitors El Pincha determined to draw their hosts' sting before trying to strike themselves. Another decisive factor could be the fine form of keepers Fabio and Mariano Andujar, with both looking to finish the competition on a high having played key roles in their teams' run to the decider.
Did you know?
In 35 games at the Mineirao, Argentinian teams have claimed victory on just two occasions. How Estudiantes would love to add their name to a list that includes Velez Sarsfield, who beat Cruzeiro home and away to claim the Supercopa Sudamericana in 1996, and Boca Juniors, who also won both legs against A Raposa in the last 16 of the Libertadores 2008.
4 - The number of hours it took Cruzeiro fans to buy up every available ticket for tonight's encounter, for which 60,000-plus spectators are expected.
What they said
"Do I think we'll win the Libertadores? I'm sure we will. It's not going to be easy and we're up against a great team, but we've got a superb side and enough quality to win this match. I'm convinced of it," Cruzeiro coach Adilson Batista.
"Let's hope Cruzeiro are already celebrating, it suits us for them to be over-confident. We already proved that nobody has an easy time against us and we'll give them a tough game. They are tricky because they've changed their style: they played more like Argentinians than Brazilians in the first leg," Estudiantes defender Rolando Schiavi.