Argentinian giants Independiente will look to continue their winning streak in South American continental competition when the Copa Libertadores gets under way tomorrow night.
The Red Devils secured the Copa Sudamericana title last month and take on Ecuador's Deportivo Quito in the first leg of the Libertadores first stage. This is Independiente's first appearance in the Copa Libertadores since 2004, having won the competition seven times in all, with the last success coming in 1984.
In this first stage, 12 teams are playing in six ties to see who will advance to the group stage which begins next month. The team to win this tie will make it into Group Eight and compete against Uruguayan giants Penarol, Ecuador's LDU Quito and Godoy Cruz of Argentina in a difficult pool.
Independiente midfielder Nicolas Cabrera believes his side must get the tie won in the home leg by racking up a big score against their Ecuadorian opponents. "It is the first important match of the year and we are hopeful of scoring a lot of goals here because then we'll have to play in high altitude," Cabrera said. "We want to demonstrate on the field why we won the Copa Sudamericana. We want to win all the championships we are playing in this year."
On Wednesday, Brazilian giants Corinthians take on Colombian side Tolima and defender Roberto Carlos commented: "We need to win, even playing well or not. The only team that play wonderful football is Barcelona. There are no weak rivals. The Copa Libertadores means more pressure. All the games will be difficult to pass."
Also on Wednesday, Uruguay's Liverpool meet Gremio of Brazil in Montevideo and Jaguares of Mexico face Peru's Alianza Lima in Chiapas. On Thursday, in Paraguay, Cerro Porteno play Venezuela's Deportivo Petare before Bolivian giants Bolivar take on Union Espanola of Chile. The second leg of each tie will be played next week.
The reigning champions Internacional of Brazil, who claimed a 5-3 aggregate win over Mexican giants Guadalajara in last year's final, start their 2011 campaign next month in Group Six. They play against Emelec of Ecuador, Bolivia's Jorge Wilstermann and Jaguares or Alianza Lima.
Inter boss Celso Roth, who fielded reserves in the Rio Grande do Sul state championship to prioritise the Copa Libertadores, believes Brazilian teams will be the biggest rivals in this tournament. "With all respect to Argentinians and other clubs, the Brazilians are the toughest rivals," he said. "The Brazilian league is more difficult, longer, more competitive than the Libertadores. Every year you have different teams fighting for the title. The Brazilian teams make the Copa Libertadores very tough for their rivals."
Argentina's biggest and best-supported teams, six-time winners Boca Juniors and two-time champions River Plate, have not made it into the championship for the second time in a row. The reigning Argentinian league winners Estudiantes, who have won the Libertadores four times, will meet Brazilian giants Cruzeiro, Paraguay's Guarani and Corinthians or Tolima in Group Seven.
Meanwhile, the Campeonato Brasileiro champions Fluminense, with Dario Conca as the outstanding player, meet Uruguayan giants Nacional, Argentina's Argentinos Juniors and Mexican giants America in Group Three.