After breaking off for 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, the 51st Copa Libertadores resumes this week with two enticing semi-final, first legs. Previous winners Internacional and Sao Paulo square off in an all-Brazilian tie, while Universidad de Chile and Guadalajara will fight it out for a place in the final, a stage of the competition neither side has ever reached before. FIFA.com previews the action.
Games of the weekGuadalajara-Universidad de Chile*
Estadio Azteca, Tuesday 27 July, 20.15 (local time)*
Entering the tournament at the knockout stage, the Mexicans have done well to progress this far, with five first-teamers missing their last-16 and quarter-final engagements due to international commitments. Now back to full strength, Chivas are in optimistic mood despite the fact they will be running out at the Azteca, the home ground of deadly rivals America.
The furthest La U have ever got before was the semi-finals in 1970 and 1996. Hampered by the post-South Africa 2010 departures of midfield duo Alvaro Fernandez and Marco Estrada, the Chileans will nevertheless be holding on to their Argentinian attacking midfielder Walter Montillo until the end of the competition, good news for coach Gerardo Pelusso, who guided Nacional of Uruguay to the last four in 2009.
Estadio Beira-Rio, Wednesday 28 July, 21.50 (local time)*
Former champions Internacional and Sao Paulo faced off in the 2006 final, with O Colorado taking the honours in their only Libertadores win to date. Now without the services of coach Jorge Fossati, Inter have recently welcomed back three of the players who helped them claim that crown four years ago: Renan, Tinga and Rafael Sobis. With Celso Roth now at the helm, the men from Porto Alegre are confident of making a return to the FIFA Club World Cup in December.
Opponents Sao Paulo have made a slow start to their Brasileirao campaign but have the big-match experience and attacking firepower necessary to avenge that final defeat. Leading the line for O Tricolor Paulista will be new signing Ricardo Oliveira, who teams up with seasoned finisher Fernandao, one of the architects’ of Internacional’s 4-3 aggregate victory over Sao Paulo in that final.
Player to watch
Fernandao (Sao Paulo)
The 32-year-old striker has a reputation for scoring decisive goals at the business end of the Libertadores, getting on the score-sheet for Inter as they overcame Sao Paulo in the tournament showpiece four years ago. Now plotting his old club’s downfall, what kind of reception can the former Colorado hero expect at the Beira-Rio?
100 - The percentage of games Guadalajara have won at home in this year’s Libertadores. Entering the competition in the last 16, the Mexicans prevailed in both their outings at the Estadio Jalisco, scoring six goals and not conceding any.
What they said“Wherever we play, we feel at home. Despite only previously having been in the Azteca as the away team, we’ve always had lot of support there. This time, however, every last fan will be cheering for us. Chivas are Mexico’s team,” Luis Michel, Guadalajara goalkeeper.
This week’s fixtures*Tuesday 27 July
*Guadalajara (MEX) - Universidad de Chile (CHI)
*Wednesday 28 July
*Internacional (BRA) - Sao Paulo (BRA)