Timao's Mexican test, Strongest eye revenge
Corinthians’ bid to negotiate the group phase of the 2012 Copa Libertadores continues with an awkward home game against Group 6 leaders Cruz Azul, while Bolivia’s The Strongest have nothing on their mind but avenging last week’s 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Internacional when they entertain the Porto Alegre side.
Elsewhere, group leaders Libertad and Atletico Nacional can both take major steps to the next round if they win, while Santos seem to have a straightforward task at home to pointless Juan Aurich.
FIFA.com looks forward to those games and the rest of the week’s action in South America’s leading club competition.
Game of the week
Corinthians (BRA) - Cruz Azul (MEX)
Group 6 – Wednesday 21 March, 22:00 (local time), Estadio do Pacaembu, Sao Paulo
The leading two in Group 6 face off again just seven days after their goalless draw in Mexico City. Two points clear of the Brazilians, Cruz Azul will virtually make sure of a place in the knockout phase if they win in Sao Paulo, though their recent form is inconsistent to say the least, following two defeats in the Mexican league. “Now’s not the time to point the finger but to find solutions,” said Cementeros coach Emmanuel Villa. “We feel we can win, but we know they have the advantage because they’re at home.”
Aware of the importance of Wednesday’s game, one that could see his side replace Cruz Azul at the top of the table, Villa’s Corinthians counterpart Tite rested some of his first-teamers at the weekend, and is expected to name the same line-up that secured a point in the Mexican capital last week. While striker Liedson has still to score this season, the Timão coach is no doubt delighted to have fellow forward Emerson fit and raring to go once more.
Internacional and Santos can also take control of their destiny in Group 1 should they repeat last week’s respective wins against The Strongest and Juan Aurich. The 2010 champions have the harder task of the two, as they visit La Paz, where the Bolivians will be banking on the high altitude to atone for last Thursday’s 5-0 drubbing in Porto Alegre and move back in front of section-leading Inter. Defending champions Santos, meanwhile, have an altogether easier assignment at home to the bottom-placed Peruvians, whose hopes of qualifying are virtually nil.
The situation in Group 5 is also finely poised, with frontrunners Libertad set to defend their three-point lead over Vasco da Gama in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday. Victory for the Paraguayans will put them in an almost unassailable position, though Vasco have other ideas in mind, as the experienced Felipe explained: “We need to win at all costs. I can see them playing some mind games because they probably know we’re the better side.”
There is more tension in store in Group 7, where leaders Velez Sarsfield play host to second-placed Deportivo Quito, with the 3-0 defeat in the Ecuadorian capital a fortnight ago still fresh in their minds. Fellow Argentinians Godoy Cruz face a testing trip to Atletico Nacional, who stand three points ahead of them at the top of Group 8. If the spectacular 4-4 draw the two sides served up in Mendoza earlier this month is anything to go by, it could be quite a night in Medellin.
Also locking horns this week are Emelec and Lanus, who meet in Ecuador in what is becoming a very tight Group 2, while Bolivar, who are currently separating Chilean duo Union Espanola and Universidad Catolica in Group 3, will aim to keep their challenge on track when they welcome struggling Junior Barranquilla to La Paz.
Player to watch
Dorlan Pabon (Atletico Nacional)
The goalscoring form of Dorlan Pabon is a big reason why Atletico Nacional, the first Colombian side to win the Copa Libertadores, stand top of their section. The tireless striker, nicknamed Memín, is the tournament’s joint-top scorer on five goals with Leandro Damiao, having scored in every group game to date, collecting braces against Penarol and Godoy Cruz.
Did you know?
Peru’s Juan Aurich are the only side yet to win a point in the group phase. All but out of the competition, the Peruvian outsiders’ chances of getting off the mark away to reigning champions Santos this week look remote.
What they said
“There’s no single key to success against Velez. We’re going to try to play our game, and that’s to attack whenever we’ve got the ball. I don’t believe in sitting back. There’s no question Velez are the better side but we’re going to do the very best we can,” Deportivo Quito Carlos Ischia talks tactics ahead of the reunion with his former club Velez Sarsfield.
Tuesday 20 March
Emelec - Lanus
Bolivar - Atletico Junior
Wednesday 21 March
The Strongest - Internacional
Vasco - Libertad
Corinthians - Cruz Azul
Thursday 22 March
Santos - Juan Aurich
Velez Sarsfield - Deportivo Quito
Atletico Nacional - Godoy Cruz