There are nine teams battling for five qualification slots in the penultimate week of group games in the Copa Libertadores 2011. FIFA.com has all the details as the tension mounts in Latin America’s leading club competition.
Game of the week
Liga de Quito-Godoy Cruz
Tuesday 12 April, 18.15 (local time), Estadio Casa Blanca (Quito, Ecuador)
Group 8 leaders Penarol are already assured of a place in the next round and the winners of this high-stakes meeting will join them. A draw could well be enough for the Ecuadorians thanks to their superior goal difference, assuming bottom-placed Independiente do not win by a huge margin in Montevideo. The statistics are also in the 2008 champions’ favour: in nine home games against Argentinian opposition in the Libertadores, they have won four, drawn four and lost just the one.
As mentioned above, Penarol entertain Independiente in their final game, and will be looking for three more points to improve their chances of avoiding some of the big guns in the next round. In contrast, the Argentinians need an eight-goal win and a draw in Quito to advance, a mission that looks beyond even El Rojo, who have won the Libertadores a record-breaking seven times.
Both qualification places are still available in Group 4, with leaders Caracas, who have nine points, entertaining Velez Sarsfield, who are two points behind them in third and need to win to be sure of going through. El Fortinero have only won once in six attempts on Venezuelan soil, however. Currently second on eight points, Universidad Catolica are also masters of their own destiny and will advance to the last 16 if they avoid defeat to the already-eliminated Union Espanola.
There is similar situation in store in Group 5, where there are still two rounds of games to go. Should frontrunners Cerro Porteno beat Santos at home, they will progress a game early, although the Brazilians will have other ideas despite their suspension problems. Second-placed Colo-Colo, who are two points adrift of Cerro and one clear of Santos, host bottom club Deportivo Tachira, who have no option but to win. El Cacique have a perfect Libertadores record against Venezuelan sides, however, with 16 wins out of 16.
Cruzeiro and Estudiantes are already through from Group 7 and meet in La Plata with important goals in mind as they look to secure potentially easier ties for themselves in the next round: the Brazilians are gunning for the best record of the eight section winners, while El Pincha are aiming to finish as the best runners-up. Estudiantes can still make off with the group, though they will need to win by eight clear goals to do so.
There are similar incentives for Junior de Barranquilla and Gremio, the two through from Group 2, who end their group campaigns with respective games at home to Leon de Huanuco and away at Oriente Petrolero. The omens are good for both sides: the Colombians have never lost to Peruvian opposition and the Brazilians have won all their previous meetings with Oriente.
Player to watch
Paulo Henrique Ganso (Santos)
O Peixe need to win in Paraguay to avoid having to rely on results elsewhere, and they will have to do so without the suspended Neymar, Elano and Ze Eduardo, placing even more of a burden on Ganso. The 21-year-old playmaker is used to carrying the team on his shoulders, though it remains to be seen how he will fare without his usual partners.
55 - The number of Libertadores matches that Penarol have played against Argentinian teams, having lost 26 and won 15 of them. At home the Uruguayans have won eight and lost eight in 26 matches, their latest victory coming against group rivals Godoy Cruz.
What they said
“We can’t underestimate anyone. In the group with the other two Chilean teams [Union Espanola and Universidad Catolica], Caracas went and won both their games in Chile and played really well too. I hope we can learn from that. Our opponents have a much slimmer chance than we have, but they’ll be giving it a go,” Colo-Colo midfielder Rodrigo Millar.