Copa Libertadores preview
© AFP

Week two of the group phase of the 51st Copa Libertadores features six games in all, with Estudiantes attempting to build on the winning start they made to their title defence. Four other sides will also be out to follow up their opening first-phase victories, although Brazil’s representatives are conspicuous by their absence, all of them enjoying a week off. FIFA.com previews the upcoming action.

Game of the week
Alianza Lima-Estudiantes
Thursday 18 February, Estadio Alejandro Villanueva (Matute), 19.30 (local time) 

Both sides made perfect starts to their respective Group 3 campaigns, which raises the stakes for their meeting in Lima. Reigning champions Estudiantes rested several first-teamers in the Argentinian Clausura in midweek, and will be feeling confident of success having gone five away matches unbeaten in the competition.

Alianza Lima celebrated their 109th anniversary yesterday and will be out to mark the occasion with a performance similar to the one that earned a 3-1 win at Bolivar last week. With that very aim in mind, their Argentinian coach Gustavo Costas sent out a weakened side at the weekend and, like his opposite number Alejandro Sabella, paid for it with a defeat. The question is, which of the two sets of players will have benefitted more from their break?

Elsewhere
The four sides in Group 4 are all back in action again. Libertad kicked off with a priceless 2-0 win away to Lanus and are hungry for another three points at home to Blooming in Asuncion. El Gumarelo reached the semi-finals in 2006 and will take another small step towards emulating that feat if they can see off the Bolivians.

Staying in the same section, Universitario have the task of following their opening-game success in Bolivia at home to Lanus. The Argentinians followed up that defeat by Libertad with another setback in their domestic league, and desperately need to reverse their faltering form. 

Banfield, Lanus’s conquerors in Saturday’s El Clásico del Sur, kicked off their Group 6 bid with a 2-1 win over Monarcas Morelia, and now visit a Deportivo Cuenca side anxious to get off the mark after coming away empty-handed from their trip to Montevideo first time out.

Last but not least, there is a Chile-Venezuela double header in Groups 7 and 8, with 1991 champions Colo-Colo kicking off their latest Libertadores tilt against Deportes Italia, and 1996 semi-finalists Universidad de Chile playing host to Caracas.

Player to watch  
Jose Manuel Rey (Caracas)
The undisputed leader of Los Rojos and the Venezuelan national team, the centre-half has played a starring role for Caracas in their recent forays in the tournament. Combative, committed and a threat in the opposing penalty box, Rey will be the man his team-mates look to in their awkward opener at Universidad de Chile.

The stat
3 -
The number of teams who go into this week’s matches with weekend league wins under their belts: Libertad, Banfield and Caracas. This week’s remaining combatants all failed to collect three points, apart from Blooming of Bolivia, where the season has yet to start.

What they said
“We are not scared of Colo-Colo, anything but. When you play for an unfashionable team you want to take on the big names, especially when they are one of the biggest sides on the continent. We’ll be giving it everything,” Deportivo Italia captain Gabriel Urdaneta.

This week’s fixtures
Tuesday 16
Libertad (PAR) – Blooming (BOL)
Colo-Colo (CHI) – Deportivo Italia (VEN)

Wednesday 17
Universitario (PER) – Lanus (ARG) 
Deportivo Cuenca (ECU) – Banfield (ARG)

Thursday 18
Alianza Lima (PER) – Estudiantes (ARG)
Universidad de Chile (CHI) – Caracas (VEN)