Last eight primed for action

Six of the eight teams lining up in the quarter-finals of the Copa Libertadores 2009 are former winners of the coveted trophy. Completing the field are two rank outsiders with hopes of continuing their fairy tale runs. runs the rule over the week's four ties in Latin America's blue riband club competition.

The big game
Cruzeiro-Sao Paulo
Wednesday 27, Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, 21.45 (local time)

This year's competition has been dominated by Brazilian representatives, and two of the country's quartet of candidates go head to head in a tie that promises plenty of good football and excitement. Cruzeiro and Sao Paulo boast fine Libertadores pedigrees, having won the trophy twice and three times respectively. And through the two sides have been in contrasting form of late, with A Raposa losing only twice all season and O Tricolor Paulista collecting just one win in their last seven outings, picking a winner is no easy task. This is the second year running Sao Paulo have faced domestic opposition in the last eight, Fluminense knocking them out in 2008 en route to the final.

In the other tie between former champions Palmeiras and Nacional of Uruguay meet in Sao Paulo on Thursday. After emerging from the toughest section in the group phase and then eliminating Sport Recife in the last round, Vanderlei Luxemburgo's side face another stern examination against one of the two unbeaten sides left in the tournament. El Bolso will not be short of confidence for their trip to Brazil either, having edged out Penarol in last Sunday's Montevideo derby.

In Thursday's other game Defensor Sporting, surprise conquerors of Boca Juniors in the Bombonera last week, entertain Estudiantes, the only remaining Argentinian team. Both sides go into the tie with morale high. Los Violetas have one hand on the Uruguayan championship trophy, while El Pincha have gone five Libertadores matches without conceding a goal.

Aside from Defensor, the other dark horses still in the running are Caracas, who face a daunting task against mighty Gremio. Los Rojos del Ávila have won their four previous engagements in Caracas but are up against a side who have prevailed in all four of their away games to date. The duel between Caracas striker Diego Figueroa, who has scored five times on their run to the quarters, and Gremio's strike pairing of Souza and Maxi Lopez, who have four goals apiece, should provide an interesting subplot.

Player to watch
Gustavo Biscayzacu (Nacional)
Last weekend the 30-year old forward marked his first appearance in the Uruguayan clásico with a hat-trick in El Bolso's 3-2 defeat of Penarol. Can the experienced goalgetter follow that performance up with more goals against Palmeiras on Thursday?

The stat
6 -
The number of years since two Uruguayan teams appeared in the last eight of the Libertadores. In 2002 Penarol and Nacional were knocked out in the quarters by Sao Caetano and Gremio respectively.

What they said
"With every passing day we want to achieve more and more. That's our message. We've reached the quarter-finals so why can't we go on and reach the semis or even win the Copa?" Caracas coach Noel Sanvicente.

This week's quarter-final first legs:
Wednesday 27
Cruzeiro (BRA) - Sao Paulo (BRA)
Caracas (VEN) - Gremio (BRA)

Thursday 28
Palmeiras (BRA) - Nacional (URU)
Defensor Sporting (URU) - Estudiantes (ARG)