CONMEBOL: Open field in Libertadores quarter-finals
With the quarter-finals approaching in the Copa Libertadores each of the eight teams remaining in the competition will fancy their chances of winning the trophy.
This is due to the fact that the two traditional powers of South American football, Brazil and Argentina, whose clubs usually take up a good proportion of representation at this stage, only have two clubs between them going into the last eight of this year’s tournament. The two clubs concerned, Santos FC and Vélez Sársfield, will be most people’s favourites to go all the way this year but they still have some way to go before lifting the big one.
Santos FC, whose two triumphs in this competition date back to the early 1960’s, will face 2004 champions Once Caldas. The Colombian club are last season’s national champions and currently lead the way in the Torneo Apertura with a two point lead over three other teams in the quest for play-off places (the top eight teams progress after 17 games). Santos, on the other hand, failed in their quest to win the Campeonato Paulista and have yet to begin their national championship which kicks off on May 21st. Vélez Sársfield, in contrast to the Brazilians, are deep into their domestic campaign and lead the way with a four point advantage over surprise challengers Godoy Cruz in the Torneo Clausura. The Argentines face Club Libertad in the quarter-finals with the Paraguayan side yet to record a win in this tournament, the nearest they came was in 2006 when they were unfortunate to go out to eventual champions SC Internacional.
Cerro Porteño are the other Paraguayan team remaining in the tournament and they, like Club Libertad, are hoping to create history by becoming only the second different club from their country after three-time Libertadores champions Olimpia Asuncion to reach a final. Cerro Porteño, who have the tournament’s top scorer Roberto Nanni on their books, have given up on the domestic Torneo Apertura title (they lie in seventh place) and have decided to put all of their eggs in the Libertadores basket. Their opponents are the Mexican club Jaguares de Chiapas who recently finished with the worst record in the 18 team Primera División and have also opted to save their strength for the arduous Libertadores campaign. The final quarter-final match-up sees Chilean champions Universidad Católica take on Uruguayan giants Peñarol, both of whom are mixing strong domestic campaigns with a good run in this competition. Universidad, who finished Libertadores runners-up in 1993, lead their national championship by five points from Universidad de Chile. Peñarol, on the other hand, recently lost out in the big one against Nacional and are three points adrift of their arch rivals in second place. Nevertheless they will take heart from their run in this competition which they last won in 1987 and are desperate to add a sixth title in the trophy cabinet after 24 long years.
The first legs take place on May 11-12 with the return fixtures on May 18-19.