The footballing rivalry between Brazil and Argentina takes top billing in the Copa Libertadores this week, as Latin America’s premier club competition reaches the quarter-final stage. National pride will be put at stake, with ties between Boca Juniors-Fluminense and Santos-Velez Sarsfield the pick of an intriguing card.
FIFA.com takes a look at those two encounters as well as the details surrounding the week’s other fixtures.
Game of the week
Velez Sarsfield (ARG) - Santos (BRA)
Thursday 17 May, 22:00 (local time), Estadio Jose Amalfitani
The visit of Neymar and Co to Liniers pits the reigning champions against one of last year’s losing semi-finalists. That and some imaginative pricing on the part of the Argentinian club has ensured that Thursday’s game is a sell-out. O Peixe have won just once on the road in the competition this year, but travel to Buenos Aires buoyed by their Sao Paulo state title win at the weekend. Facing them are a side missing several key players and with an urgent need to get back to winning ways at home after two matches without a victory in their own backyard. There is little question that this is the game to watch as it promises to be a highly-charged round in the competition.
Boca Juniors and Fluminense will meet in the week’s other Argentina-versus-Brazil tie. The two crossed swords in Group 4, with each side claiming an away win. This time around, however, the Brazilians have the disadvantage of being without the injured Fred and Deco, who scored their goals in the 2-1 win at La Bombonera at the beginning of March. As for Los Xeneizes, they have the incentive of trying to avenge their semi-final exit at the hands of Flu in 2008.
The tie between Libertad and Universidad de Chile in Asuncion pits clubs of contrasting fortunes. While El Gumarelo are unbeaten at home in the competition, La U have won just once outside Santiago. “If what happened to us in Ecuador happens again (a 4-1 defeat to Deportivo Quito in the first leg of the Round of 16), we could be on our way out,” warned Universidad captain Jose Rojas. For his part Libertad coach Jorge Burruchaga said that the key to the tie will be in keeping a clean sheet at home, something the Paraguayans have managed just once so far, against Cruz Azul in the last round.
In a repeat of the inaugural FIFA Club World Cup final, Vasco da Gama and Corinthians will play out the only tie involving two teams from the same country. The two sides also fought out a compelling duel for the 2011 Brasileirão, won by O Timão. All that has raised expectations among the fans and ensured a sell-out crowd for Wednesday’s game, one that has all the makings of a tactical affair. “We can’t go afford to go all out for a home win and risk coming away with a bad result,” said Vasco’s Rodolfo, who will be deputising for Dede. “We know the fans will be anxious, but we need to be patient.”
Player to watch
Junior Fernandes (Universidad de Chile)
The scorer of six goals to date in the competition, the striker of Brazilian extraction has earned his place in the frontline of Jorge Sampaoli’s side. Fernandes’s two goals put La U on the comeback trail against Deportivo Quito in the previous round and should serve as a warning to Libertad, who cannot afford to give the in-form striker any space if they are to make smooth progress into the next round.
Did you know?
Historically, Fluminense have had the edge over Boca Juniors in Copa Libertadores meetings, winning two of the four to date - drawing one and losing the other. The last time the two sides met in the knockout stages was in the 2008 semi-finals, with Flu winning 5-3 on aggregate.
What they said
“Santos are a great side, but no one should be under the impression that they’re going to come to Liniers and do as they please. Velez are an Argentinian team and there’s a rivalry with Brazilian sides. We’ll being going out to win the game and earn some respect. Let no-one be under any illusions about that,” Velez Sarsfield coach Ricardo Gareca.
Libertad (PAR) - Universidad de Chile (CHI)
Vasco da Gama (BRA) - Corinthians (BRA)
Boca Juniors (ARG) - Fluminense (BRA)
Vélez Sarsfield (ARG) - Santos (BRA)