Guadalajara and Internacional meet in the first leg of the final of the 51st Copa Libertadores on Wednesday, with Chivas looking to become the first Mexican side to win the trophy and Inter hoping to lift it for a second time.
To achieve their goal, the Mexicans will look to build a commanding lead in front of their fans. O Colorado, meanwhile, have recent experience to draw on, having beaten Sao Paulo to win their maiden continental crown in 2006, 26 years after losing their only previous final to Nacional of Uruguay.
FIFA.com sets the scene for act one in the crowning moment of the Latin American footballing calendar.
The big matchGuadalajara-Internacional, Estadio Omnilife (Guadalajara), Wednesday 11 August, 21.50 (local time).
Though Chivas came into this year’s competition at the Round-of-16 stage, few of their fans imagined them going the distance. With several of their players called up for Mexico’s pre-South Africa 2010 training camp, Guadalajara were forced to field a makeshift team for their opening knockout ties, which made their progress to the semi-finals somewhat unexpected. Once there, though, and by this time restored to full-strength, El Rebaño Sagrado proved too strong for Universidad de Chile, securing a notable win in Santiago to take them within 180 minutes of glory.
A key factor in that run has been their home performances. Held to a draw by the Chileans, Jose Luis Real’s men nevertheless secured comfortable wins in their opening two home ties. And though the Mexicans have just taken up residence in a brand new stadium, Inter’s faltering away form in the competition should give them further cause for optimism. After collecting three draws on the road in the group phase, the Brazilians have lost all of their away engagements in the knockout rounds.
O Colorado partly owe their place in the final to their uncanny knack of scoring vital late goals in those away defeats. The free-scoring Alecsandro and supersub Giuliano have both played prominent roles in their run and pose the biggest threat to the Guadalajara rearguard. For their part, the Mexicans will be looking to the experienced pairing of Adolfo Bautista and Omar Bravo to fashion a potentially decisive lead.
Players to watchOmar Bravo (Guadalajara) vs Alecsandro (Internacional)
While the diminutive Bravo’s main asset is his speed, Alecsandro’s game is all about power and physique. The two strikers both have a nose for goal, however, having top scored for their sides with four goals apiece in the competition. Possessing the ability to pop up in the right place at the right time, they hold the key to the outcome of Wednesday’s opening leg.
The stat9 - The number of years that have passed since a Mexican team last contested a Copa Libertadores final, with Cruz Azul the first to do so in 2001. Chivas will be hoping to go one better than Los Cementeros, who lost out to Boca Juniors 3-1 in a penalty decider after both games had ended in 1-0 wins for the visiting sides.
What they said“It means an awful lot to reach a Copa Libertadores final because it’s the kind of occasion that doesn’t come around very often. We are very excited and determined to win but we know they’re a very strong and well-organised side and we can’t afford to be over-confident,” Edgar Mejia, Guadalajara midfielder.
“Chivas are a great club with a fine team, a team that went to Chile and got a fantastic result. There are no such thing as favourites in modern football, though. We have every respect for our opponents but we want the Libertadores so that we can go to the Club World Cup as champions. Even so, we know it will be far from easy,” Celso Roth, Internacional coach.
Voice of the fans“Brazilian teams are always very tough to beat at home so it would be great to get a lead in the first leg. The support of the fans will be very important in putting pressure on them. Come on my Chivas,” FIFA.com user ChivoRayado (Mexico).
Have your sayWhich player do you think will make the difference in the first leg?