The semi-finals of the 51st Copa Libertadores come to a conclusion this week, with Universidad de Chile and Guadalajara vying for a berth in the final for the very first time. The former are well placed after securing a 1-1 draw in Mexico last week, while Sao Paulo have more work to do if they are to turn around their tie against Internacional. The duel between the 2006 finalists is intriguingly poised after Inter’s 1-0 win in Porto Alegre. FIFA.com sets the scene for both games.
Universidad de Chile-Guadalajara
Estadio Nacional, Santiago, Tuesday 3 August, 21.15 (local time)
Universidad de Chile stood up well to the pressure exerted by a 100,000-strong crowd at the Estadio Azteca last week. Rafael Olarra’s second-half header ensured Gerardo Pelusso’s side remain unbeaten away from home in the knockout phase. Even so, the Chileans cannot afford to relax in front of their own fans, having drawn 2-2 at home to Alianza Lima in the last 16 and lost 2-1 to Flamengo in the quarter-finals, results that would see them go out if repeated on Tuesday evening.
La U will be looking to the creative inspiration of Walter Montillo and Juan Manuel Olivera to ensure there is no repeat on this occasion, although a goalless draw will be enough to take them into their first final at the third attempt, the Santiago side having lost in the semis in 1970 and 1996 to Penarol and River Plate respectively.
Chivas have two semi-final exits of their own to make up for. El Rebaño Sagrado lost out at this stage of the competition to Atletico Paranaense in 2005 and Sao Paulo in 2006, and are aiming to become only the second Mexican outfit to reach the final and the first since Cruz Azul in 2001.
Jose Luis Real’s side have it all to do in Santiago, however, and their respective 2-0 defeats at Velez Sarsfield and Libertad in previous rounds do not bode well for their latest trip. Their cause will be hampered by the absence of forward Alberto Medina, who picked up an injury in last week’s friendly against Manchester United, leaving strike partners Omar Bravo and Omar Arellano with even more of a burden to bear.
Estadio Morumbi, Thursday 5 August, 21.50 (local time)
Inter dominated the first leg at Beira-Rio and were rewarded for their superiority by a goal from substitute Giuliano. Last week’s performance was their finest under Celso Roth so far and suggests they may have what it takes to foil their fellow countryman in the Thursday’s return. New signing Renan looks set to continue in goal at the expense of Roberto Abbondanzieri, while midfielder Tinga, one of the heroes of their 2006 triumph, has recovered from his injury problems and could well start the game.
Opponents Sao Paulo have plenty to ponder after a worrying run of results in the last few weeks. Criticised by their supporters after their disappointing showing in Porto Alegre, Ricardo Gomes’s men have nevertheless been talking up their chances of a comeback and are banking on the fans to inspire them to a seventh final appearance in the competition. What is more, O Tricolor Paulista have yet to concede a goal at home in this year’s Libertadores.
Player to watch
Ricardo Oliveira (Sao Paulo)
Sao Paulo’s new recruit showed in last week’s first leg that he has lost none of his mobility despite a lengthy lay-off following knee surgery. Coming on in the second half at the Beira-Rio, Oliveira looked sharp and alert, doing enough to win a starting place against Ceara in the league on Saturday. The much-travelled striker repaid coach Gomes’s faith with his first goal on his return to the club, which could earn him another start alongside Fernandao and Dagoberto in a game the three-time champions have to win by two clear goals to advance.
6 - For the sixth year running the Copa Libertadores will be decided on Brazilian soil, with the winners of the tie between Internacional and Sao Paulo enjoying home advantage in the return leg of the final, to be played on 18 August. In the last five years both O Colorado and O Tricolor Paulista have had the satisfaction of lifting the trophy in front of their home fans, while their compatriots and fellow finalists Gremio, Fluminense and Cruzeiro all missed out.
What they said
“We need to make the most of the advantage we have. A 0-0 draw will take us through but that doesn’t mean we should go out and play for one. We need to play an intelligent game, try and get a goal and do everything we can to stop them scoring,” Diego Rivarola, Universidad de Chile forward.
This week's fixtures
Tuesday 3 August
Universidade do Chile (CHI) - Chivas Guadalajara (MEX)
Thursday 5 August
Sao Paulo (BRA) - Internacional (BRA)