Race on to join Fluminense
The group phase of the 2012 Copa Libertadores is fast nearing its conclusion. Only Fluminense have made sure of their place in the last 16 so far, though a clutch of other sides will join the Brazilians if results go their way this week.
FIFA.com assesses their chances of doing just that as it previews the latest round of group games in Latin America’s leading club competition.
Game of the week
Lanus (ARG) - Olimpia (PAR)
Group 2 – Tuesday 3 April, 19:45 (local time), Estadio Ciudad de Lanus
Despite having the likes of Mauro Camoranesi, Mario Regueiro and Silvio Romero in their ranks, Lanus have been struggling in the Argentinian Clausura, collecting only seven points from eight games. Their Libertadores form has been entirely different, however, El Granate topping one of the tightest sections in the competition with seven points, four ahead of bottom club Emelec.
Their Paraguayan opponents today are faring much better in their league, topping the Apertura with seven wins and two draws to their name. Lying second in the section, behind Lanus on goal difference, El Decano will be without the injured duo of Maxi Biancucchi and Renzo Revoredo for the trip to Buenos Aires, though they can count on the presence of their in-form Uruguayan midfielder Sergio Orteman, who led them to Libertadores glory in 2002. The winners of this meeting will go through to the next phase if third-placed Flamengo fail to collect maximum points on their visit to Emelec.
The showdown between Internacional and Santos in Porto Alegre brings together the leading two sides in Group 1, the competition’s last two champions and two of Brazilian football’s biggest stars in Leandro Damiao and Neymar. O Peixe lead the section on nine points and will go through if they win here, while O Colorado, who lie second on seven, need a result to stay clear of The Strongest. The Bolivians are just behind Inter on goal difference and face a trip to bottom club Juan Aurich, the only side in the tournament yet to collect a point.
With Group 3 frontrunners Union Espanola and Bolivar both resting this week, third-placed Universidad Catolica have the chance to move into the lead when they travel to Barranquilla to take on Junior. The Colombians have won just a solitary point to date and have no option but to win both this game and their last remaining match, also at home, if they are to have any chance of progressing.
Tied at the top of Group 5 with seven points, Vasco da Gama and Libertad will both advance to the next round if they win their respective games this week, away at Alianza Lima and at home to Uruguay’s Nacional. Both the Uruguayans and Peruvians will have other ideas, however, as they seek to keep their qualification bids alive.
Finally, in the week’s only game in Group 8, Universidad de Chile travel to Mendoza to do battle with Godoy Cruz. A point behind leaders Atletico Nacional, La U will clinch their ticket to the last 16 if they can see off the Argentinians.
Player to watch
Omar Bravo (Cruz Azul)
The scorer of just one goal all season, against Monterrey, the former Guadalajara striker rediscovered his touch at the weekend with a welcome brace against San Luis. Bravo’s next mission will be to fire his side to the top of Group 6 when they visit struggling rivals Deportivo Tachira on Wednesday. Victory will take the Mexicans two points clear of leaders Corinthians, who are not in action this week.
Did you know?
Out of the 11 countries represented in the competition only Argentina and Brazil have more than one team leading their group at the moment. Lanus and Velez Sarsfield are the pool-topping Argentinian clubs in question and Corinthians, Flu and Santos the Brazilian sides. The other three section leaders are Union Espanola of Chile, Atletico Nacional of Colombia and Libertad of Paraguay.
What they said
“We’re not after revenge but we do need to win at all costs. We have to play a totally different game here, closing down space and taking any chances that come our way. We kid around but you can’t be friends on the pitch,” Internacional forward Leandro Damiao on the duel with Santos and his Seleção team-mate Neymar.
Copa Libertadores fixtures
Tuesday 3 April
Lanus (ARG) v Olimpia (PAR)
Alianza Lima (PER) v Vasco Da Gama (BRA)
Deportivo Tachira (VEN) v Cruz Azul (MEX)
Wednesday 4 April
Internacional (BRA) v Santos (BRA)
Emelec (EQU) v Flamengo (BRA)
Junior de Barranquilla (COL) v Universidad Catolica (CHI)
Godoy Cruz (ARG) v Universidad de Chile (CHI)
Thursday 5 April
Juan Aurich (PER) v The Strongest (BOL)
Libertad (PAR) v Nacional (URU)