CONMEBOL: Qualifiers for 2011 Libertadores begin
The qualifying round for the 2011 Copa Libertadores begins this week with twelve teams hoping to gain the final six places in the group stages of South America’s élite club competition. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews each of the two-legged contests:
ALIANZA LIMA (Peru) v JAGUARES de CHIAPAS (Mexico)
Peru’s biggest club Alianza have never got beyond the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores despite making 21 appearances in the competition. Even though they must play in the first round this time out Alianza Lima will hope that they can get one over the upstarts from Mexico. Jaguares, from the town of Chiapa, have never won a major honour and nobody would expect them to break their duck in this year’s Copa. However all teams have to start somewhere in their quest to find success and, after finishing third in the 2010 Torneo Apertura, the Jaguars might spring a surprise here. Group 6 and the trio of Emelec FC, Jorge Wilstermann FC and defending Libertadores champions Internacional FC await the winners of this first round clash.
BOLIVAR (Bolivia) v UNION ESPAñOLA (Chile)
It has been 36 years now since Chilean outfit Union Española reached their only final of this tournament, losing to record champions Independiente in the latter’s heyday. Should they succeed in their quest to participate with the likes of Vélez Sársfield, Universidad Católica and Caracas FC in Group 4 it would be unlikely that they would trouble the history books in making a second final appearance. Bolivar, Bolivian runners-up in 2010, have never reached the final of the tournament and will have to make the most of home advantage in the first leg if they are to progress.
CERRO PORTEñO (Paraguay) v DEPORTIVO PETARE (Venezuela)
Cerro Porteño are one of the biggest clubs in South America never to get their hands on the coveted title. Having been Paraguayan champions 28 times they have only reached the Libertadores semi-finals on five occasions, never being able to go one step further. They will, at the very least, hope to reach the group stages this year facing off against five-times Venezuelan champions Deportivo Petare. If you haven’t heard of them that’s probably because they were called Deportivo Italia until late last year. Their expectations will be to match last year’s accomplishment of reaching the group stage. The winners will face Santos FC, Deportivo Tachira and Colo Colo in Group 5.
CORINTHIANS (Brazil) v DEPORTES TOLIMA IBAQUE (Colombia)
The Brazilian giants should, in theory, be too strong for their Colombian opponents but it will still be difficult to negotiate their way through to the group stages as they must play the first leg away from home. Nonetheless the 2010 Copa Brasil winners will fancy their chances of reaching Group 7 – along with Cruzeiro, Estudiantes de La Plata and Guarani – whilst Colombians Tolima will need to do the business in the home leg if they are to deny Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos et al from progressing.
INDEPENDIENTE (Argentina) v CS DEPORTIVO QUITO (Ecuador)
Independiente, known to many as El Rey de Copas, will hope to be back in the competition they still remain record champions of despite not winning it since their seventh triumph in 1985. Although they suffered a terrible domestic campaign in the latter half of 2010, Independiente reached the qualifiers by virtue of winning the Copa Sudamericana in December. Their reward is to face off against Deportivo Quito who have it all to do in the second leg of this first round match. That’s because the Argentinians won the first leg 2-0 last night. 2008 Libertadores winners LDU Quito, CA Peñarol and Godoy Cruz are future Group 8 opponents for the winners of this tie.
LIVERPOOL FC (Uruguay) v GRêMIO PORTE ALEGRE (Brazil)
Grêmio have a good record in this competition winning it on two occasions but the latter of those triumphs came in 1995. The Porto Alegre side made it to this stage due to their finishing 4th place in last season’s Brasileiro and will rest their players in the domestic State Championship in order to focus on qualification for the big one. This should be a straightforward qualification for the Brazilians against a Liverpool FC team which is widely recognized as the biggest club never to win a championship in Uruguay. They reached the Libertadores due to having the highest aggregate total of points outside of the Apertura and Clausura champion teams Peñarol and Nacional. Whoever wins will face Atlético Junior, Oriente Petrolero and Léon in Group 2.