Compatriots collide as group races hot up
Following a short break for the latest round of international friendlies, Latin America’s leading clubs are back in action in the Copa Libertadores. Taking top billing on this week’s ten-game card is the all-Brazilian meeting between the last two winners of the competition.FIFA.com previews that match and the pick of the other games as the group phase resumes.
Game of the week
Santos (BRA) - Internacional (BRA)
Group 1 – Wednesday 7 March, 19.45 (local time), Vila Belmiro, Santos
Defeat in their opening match away to The Strongest in Bolivia has put reigning champions Santos under some pressure as they prepare to host the 2010 winners in the week’s stand-out game. More comfortably placed after kicking off with a win over Juan Aurich, Internacional boast one of the biggest squads in Brazilian football and will be intent on landing a potentially fatal blow on their compatriots.
Adding even more intrigue to the game is the fact that Dorival Junior, the man who won the Copa do Brasil with Santos in 2010 and secured them a place in last year’s Libertadores, is now in charge at O Colorado. Team-mates last week in Brazil’s narrow win over Bosnia-Herzegovina, Neymar and Leandro Damiao will also be lining up on opposite sides.
The Santos-Inter clash aside, there is plenty more fascinating football in prospect this week, starting with tonight's all-Chilean affair between Union Espanola and Universidad Catolica in Group 3, where the former have won both their games to date to lead the group and La Católica have drawn theirs to lie second, four points behind.
Another Chilean outfit in action are Universidad de Chile, who stand second in Group 8 and travel to Montevideo to take on a Penarol side still without a point or a goal after their opening two matches. In their last game, La U thrashed Argentina’s Godoy Cruz, who have a home date with surprise group leaders Atletico Nacional of Colombia on Thursday.
Stepping out tomorrow are two big-name Brazilian sides. Corinthians will be aiming to eat into Cruz Azul’s five-point lead in Group 6 when they host Nacional of Paraguay, albeit minus the out-of-form Adriano, while Fluminense head to Buenos Aires for a repeat of their 2008 semi-final with Boca Juniors. Thiago Neves, the scorer of two goals in that tie, which the Brazilians won, will be on duty again for Fla, with Juan Riquelme, another goalscorer on that occasion, set for a return that will alleviate Boca coach Julio Falcioni’s selection worries.
Riding high in Group 7 with maximum points from their two games, Velez Sarsfield welcome Lucas Pratto back to a full-strength line-up for the trip to Deportivo Quito on Wednesday. Finally, injury-hit Flamengo will be looking to striker Vagner Love for inspiration once more when they close out the week at home to early Group 2 pacesetters Emelec.
Player to watch
Emanuel Herrera (Union Espanola)
The 24-year-old Argentinian has wasted little time in demonstrating his credentials to the Union fans, scoring seven goals in his first ten games for the club, three of them in the Libertadores, making him the competition’s leading goalscorer. Herrera’s haul includes some crucial derby strikes, including a brace in the league draw with Universidad Catolica in February, the second of those goals coming deep into stoppage time.
Did you know?
A total of 84 players have scored in the 39 games played so far in this year’s Libertadores, which include 27 group matches. Only 14 players have got on the score-sheet more than once so far, leaving the race to become the competition’s top marksman wide open.
What they said
Jorge da Silva, Penarol's new coach: “It’s a very tough game and it’s our last chance to stay alive in the Libertadores.”
Penarol (URU) - Universidad de Chile (CHI)
Union Espanola (CHI) - Universidad Catolica (CHI)
Vasco da Gama (BRA) - Alianza Lima (PER)
Santos (BRA) - Internacional (BRA)
Boca Juniors (ARG) - Fluminense (BRA)
Corinthians (BRA) - Nacional (PAR)
Deportivo Quito (EQU) - Velez Sarsfield (ARG)
Flamengo (BRA) - Emelec (EQU)
Junior de Barranquilla (COL) - Bolivar (BOL)
Godoy Cruz (ARG) - Nacional (COL)