Trio on cusp of knockout stage

Short but intense would be one way of describing a tenth week of Copa Libertadores 2011 action, during which Cruzeiro, Estudiantes and Godoy Cruz can all seal their places in the Round of 16. looks ahead to some intriguing meetings in Latin America’s biggest club competition.

Game of the week
Penarol (URU) - Godoy Cruz (ARG)
Estadio Centenario (Montevideo), Thursday 31 March, 21.45 (local time)
The Uruguayan capital Montevideo is set to host an intriguing Group 8 clash between hosts Penarol, who boast a rich Libertadores pedigree, and Argentinian visitors and Libertadores debutants Godoy Cruz. The latter lead the section and are just one victory away from clinching a place in the knockout stage, though to do so they will have to overcome the only team to have beaten them in this year’s competition.

Further motivating the home side will be the battering given to their pride in their last outing, a 5-0 reverse away to Liga de Quito, while a win would take them two points clear of Godoy and three clear of LDU, who meet Independiente next week.

Next we turn to Group 7, which contains 2009 champions Estudiantes and that year’s beaten finalists Cruzeiro. Both teams can clinch knockout berths this week, with the Argentinian side needing a point from their visit to Colombia’s Deportes Tolima, a club in mourning after the passing of co-founder and former club president Jorge Guzman Molina. Unbeaten at home and yet to concede a goal on their own patch thus far, Tolima need to beat El Pincha to keep their hopes of progression alive.

Cruzeiro, the tournament’s highest scorers to date, travel to face a Guarani side playing only for pride after four defeats from their opening four games. A draw, or even a loss should Estudiantes avoid defeat in Colombia, would be enough to send A Raposa into the next phase.

In Group 6, meanwhile, holders Internacional can put one foot in the last 16 with a home victory over Jorge Wilstermann, who have lost all three of their opening games. O Colorado thumped their Bolivian opponents 4-1 away on 16 March and another win would give them ten points from four games, three clear of second-placed Emelec.

Player to watch
Leandro Damiao (Internacional)
After making an unexpected yet auspicious debut for the Brazil against Scotland, the 21-year-old striker will be brimming with confidence on his return to action for Inter. “It’s hard to disagree, at least in part, that our team currently depends on him,” said coach Celso Roth of the scorer of 11 goals in this year’s Campeonato Gaucho and two in the Libertadores.

The stat
5 –
The number of years that have passed since Estudiantes’s last trip to Colombia. Ahead of Wednesday’s decisive clash, hosts Deportes Tolima will take heart from the result of El Pincha’s previous visit: a 3-1 Libertadores group-stage reverse by Santa Fe on 9 March 2006.

What they said
“When this group campaign got underway there were very few people backing us, but we’re now in first place and I think we can get the points we need to qualify, even away from home. Our fate’s in our own hands, which is what matters,” Godoy Cruz coach Jorge Da Silva prior to his side’s meeting with Penarol.

30 March
Internacional (BRA) - Jorge Wilstermann (BOL)
Deportes Tolima (COL) - Estudiantes (ARG)

31 March
Guarani (PAR) - Cruzeiro (BRA)
Penarol (URU) - Godoy Cruz (ARG)