Ameliano’s 12th man

Friday night’s game between Sportivo Ameliano and 12 de Octubre was full of action with goals and red cards, but it was a fan rather than anybody on the pitch that stole the show in stoppage time. A video clip of Silvio Sens, a former player and lifelong fan of the club, throwing a ball from the stands to disrupt a last gasp corner has gone viral. Paraguay Football Blog got in touch to learn more about this superfan who brightened up our weekend!

Silvio was born and raised in Barrio Jara, a middle-class suburb of the capital Asunción and home to both Sportivo Ameliano and their arch rivals Tacuary. He grew up with the “V Azulada” playing in their youth teams and even the first team between 1984 and 1995. At the time they played in the lower divisions, and Silvio reminds me that in 1995 “we played a final against Club Atlántida who had Paulo Da Silva in their ranks at the time”.

Fast forward to last night’s game in May 2022 and Paulo Da Silva is now the most capped Paraguay National Team player ever and still playing aged 42. As fate would have it he was captaining Ameliano’s rivals while Silvio was in the stands with his group of fans that are always there, so much so they call themselves “Los de Siempre”. The game had been back and forth in the first half, ending 2-2 but on 54 minutes Ameliano were reduced to 10 men and with 15 minutes let on the clock they went down to just nine players. “We saw the board show that there were going to be seven extra minutes” Silvio retells his story to us on Saturday afternoon via WhatsApp, “our players were so tired, not just because of the two red cards but also because our right back, Victor Ayala, was injured with what I think was a dislocated shoulder”. It was a desperate moment and Silvio said that when the ball was cleared into the stands his first thought was to just “hold onto it to see what happened”.

Silvio in Santa Catarina, Brazil representing his beloved club

When he saw Alexis Rojas trotting over to take the corner, and that a ball had already been placed by the corner flag he got an idea. “At first I wanted to just throw the ball as close to him as possible…to try and shave some time off the clock”. But Silvio didn’t just get it close, he hit the ball spot on, how did he have such good aim?

“We throw paper balls into the bin at work, you know during a bit of down time, and I don’t miss a lot” Silvio comments while laughing. “But if I had to, I’d throw myself down there from the stands if it means helping the team!”

And that sums up Silvio Sens, a true superfan of Sportivo Ameliano who told us that reaching the Primera División for the first time was “like touching heaven”. He signs off our brief interview with a greeting to his new found fans across the world. “A big hello from a fanatical supporter of a very humble club here in Paraguay, a club de barrio that is now in first division, Sportivo Ameliano!”

Apertura Week 10: Cerro Porteño vs Libertad preview

Cerro Porteño vs Libertad
La Nueva Olla, Asunción
17/04/2022; 18:00 Paraguay (18:00 EST, 23:00 BST)

A lot has changed since the last time these sides met in La Nueva Olla in July 2021 in the Clausura, a game which ended 1-1. That match marked Chiqui Arce’s return to the touchline following the sudden and tragic death of his son, only a few hundred people were allowed in the ground as COVID restrictions were starting to be eased. Since that meeting the azulgrana did of course win the league title, while Libertad had stuttered for form winning just twice in the 9 games after their meeting. Going into this duel on Easter Sunday the Gumarelo are unbeaten in 19 games in all competitions winning their last six league contests. Daniel Garnero has got his team clicking and sits three points ahead of their rivals who have been affected by injury.

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Cerro Porteño’s side has been ravaged by injury with Robert Morales, Alfio Oviedo and Toni Galeano all sidelined while Beto Espínola is a doubt having picked up a knock in the midweek victory over Colón de Santa Fe. Marcelo Moreno Martins returned to training on Friday following a leave of absence to attend his father’s funeral but it is unlikely he plays. There is little doubt that Arce will try and field his strongest available XI in this top of the table clash, any rotation would come in the following two fixtures against Tacuary and Ameliano. Alan Benítez has impressed on the right and will surely continue ahead of Enzo Giménez while up front Fernando Romero and Sergio Díaz combined well in the Libertadores. The main tactical doubt is at left back where Daniel Rivas performed satisfactorily but Alan Rodríguez grabbed an assist when coming on in the second half. Although Arce is a fan of possession football he was more pragmatic in last season’s games against Libertad having just 42% and 44% of the ball in the 1-1 draw and 2-0 win respectively.

Daniel Garnero has been rotating heavily since the beginning of the Copa Libertadores. Interestingly he’s played his stronger side in the league although, such is the Gumarelo’s depth, the “second string” that beat Caracas FC midweek saw goals from former Benfica players Óscar Cardozo and Lorenzo Melgarejo. The man, or better said boy, to watch will be 18 year old Julio Enciso who has 10 goals in 9 Primera games to date. He is likely to be partnered by ex-Olimpia striker Roque Santa Cruz who enjoys nothing more than scoring against his former classic rival. The only weakness for Libertad in their recent purple patch has been at the back, conceding five goals in their previous four games. Diego Viera has started all nine league games in central defence but he has been accompanied by Barboza (3), Canale (3), Cardozo (1), Flores (1) and even midfielder Daniel Bocanegra filled in for one match. The lack of an established partnership is something El Ciclón will try and profit from.

Prediction: 2-2 – these are the best two sides in the league by some margin and I’d expect an entertaining contest on Sunday.

Cerro Porteño XI (probable): Jean; Beto Espinola, Juan Patiño, Alexis Duarte, Alan Rodríguez; Alan Benitez, Rafael Carrascal, Ángel Lucena, Claudio Aquino; Sergio Díaz, Fernando Romero

Libertad XI (probable): Martín Silva; Iván Piris, José Canale, Diego Viera, José Recalde; Héctor Villalba, Cristian Riveros, Hernesto Caballero, Rodrigo Bogarín; Roque Santa Cruz, Julio Enciso

By Ralph Hannah

Copa Libertadores: Cerro Porteño vs Colón de Santa Fe preview

Cerro Porteño vs Colón de Santa Fe
La Nueva Olla, Asunción, Paraguay
12/04/2022; 18:15 EST (18:15 Paraguay; 23:15 BST)
Group G, Gameweek 2

There will be an emotional return to La Nueva Olla for Colón de Santa Fe and their fans who were last here for the epic 2019 Copa Sudamericana Final. The sabaleros ended up losing that day, to Independiente del Valle, but won a lot of popular support. A far cry from Colón’s last game against Cerro Porteño which took place in the now demolished “old” Olla. That match, in the 2012 Copa Sudamericana Last 16 descended into violence in the stands and on the pitch ending in multiple arrests and two players sent off. Tensions aren’t likely to run as high on Tuesday evening given the stakes are still low at this stage of the competition. 

Carrascal

Chiqui Arce is faced with a huge headache heading into the match in terms of his strikeforce, Robert Morales and Alfio Oviedo are both out injured while Marcelo Moreno Martins is on compassionate leave after receiving the news his father had passed away on Monday night. It means Fernando Romero, the former Nacional and Guaireña forward is likely to continue in the first team having spent much of last season in the reserves. He will form a duo with Sergio Díaz, the pair have only managed one goal each so far in 2022. Given the fragility up front there will be plenty of attention on Claudio Aquino to continue his good run of goal contributions that began towards the end of last year and has continued in to 2022. The Argentinian midfielder has scored three times this season providing two assists. Defensively the side has depended a lot on Colombian midfielder Rafael Carrascal who has gelled well with the team since joining in July. He breaks up counter attacks and provides cover when the attack-minded full backs find themselves the wrong side of the ball. The azulgrana have kept seven cleansheets in their last eight games. 

Colón on the other hand find it hard to keep the ball out of their own net, other than a 0-0 draw with Unión in the clásico they have conced in seven of their last eight matches. The victory in gameweek one against Peñarol may have seemed fortuitous due to the timing of Facundo Farías’ winner, but the Argentinians had taken 26 shots of which 17 were inside the box. The legendary Pulga Rodríguez is their talisman and they also have former Boca Juniors players Ramón Abila and Paolo Goltz who provide continental experience. 

Prediction: 1-0

Cerro Porteño XI (probable): Jean Fernandes; Alberto Espínola, Alexis Duarte, Juan Patiño, Daniel Rivas; Alan Benítez, Rafael Carrascal, Ángel Lucena, Claudio Aquino; Sergio Díaz, Fernando Romero

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Stats and Facts

Cerro Porteño vs Argentinian opposition (Libertadores)

Pld 24 W 6 D 7 L 11 GF 25 GA 35

Cerro Porteño at home to Argentinian opposition (Libertadores)

Pld 12 W 4 D 3 L 5 GF 14 GA 18

Cerro Porteño last 6 home (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 6 W 2 D 1 L 3 GF 2 GA 7

The two wins were both 1-0

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Copa Libertadores: Peñarol vs Olimpia preview

Peñarol vs Olimpia
Campeón del Siglo, Montevideo, Uruguay
12/04/2022; 20:30 EST (20:30 Paraguay; 01:30 BST)
Group G, Gameweek 2

Having played out a goalless draw with Cerro Porteño in the superclásico to open the group, El Decano visit Montevideo for a heavyweight Copa clash against Peñarol in a repeat of the 1960 Final. The two sides have a rich history in the competition, winning the title eight times between them, but this will be their first Libertadores meeting since 1974 and the first competitive game between the sides this century having previously locked horns in the 1999 Copa Mercosur. 

OlimpiaMontevideo

Olimpia are without left back Iván Torres who has started 6 out of their 7 Libertadores games this year, the 31 year old was injured in the warm up in Friday’s defeat against Nacional. They are also missing Santi Vera and Guillermo Paiva, the latter has notched 7 goals this season and been a key player coming off the bench. The pair were pictured partying over the weekend so Julio César Cáceres has dropped them for disclpinary reasons. Paiva’s physical presence can be matched by Wálter González who finally scored a goal after a 10 month drought, however we might see a more mobile frontline with Nestor Camacho partnering Pollo Recalde. Derlis González is still doubtful (injury) so will likely get the final half hour rather than starting. In midfield we can expect to see the impressive Marcos Gómez who will help keep Peñarol at bay alongside Richard Ortiz. Defensively the side have shaky, conceding 7 in their last 5 games, and there will be a question mark over Antolín Alcarz having to play his third game in a week at 39 years old.

Peñarol come into this game having scored twice in a single match for the first time this season, a 2-1 win over Liverpool. Prior to that they had managed just five goals in eight games with only three coming from open play. The main man up front is 30 year old Pablo Cepellini who scored in the defeat to Colón in the opening game and has four goals this season. In midfield Federico “Pachi” Carrizo is a player who knows Olimpia well having played at Cerro Porteño for three seasons, while the team’s enforcer is former Napoli player Walter Gargano who is still a regular starter at 37. 

Prediction: 1-1

Olimpia XI (probable): Gastón Olveira; Víctor Salazar, Saúl Salcedo, Antolín Alcaraz, Mateo Gamarra; Alejandro Silva, Marcos Gómez, Richard Ortiz, Fernando Cardozo; Néstor Camacho, Jorge Recalde.

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Stats and Facts

Olimpia vs Uruguayan opposition (all continental competitions)

Pld 38 W 12 D 11 L 15 GF 47 GA 46

Olimpia in Uruguay (all comps)

Pld 19 W 3 D 8 L 8 GF 13 GA 23

Olimpia away to Peñarol (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 4 W 0 D 2 L 2 GF 2 GA 5

Olimpia last 6 away (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 6 W 2 D 2 L 2 GF 6 GA 10

The two defeats were to Brazilian sides Fluminense and Flamengo

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Apertura 2022: Scouting Report

Almost halfway through the 2022 Apertura, just enough material to look at some of the top young talent currently playing in the country. What follows is a list of the best six U23s who have bright futures ahead.

Julio Encisco (18, Forward, Libertad)

JulioEnciso

The most exciting talent since Sergio Díaz who ended up going to Real Madrid. Enciso burst onto the scene with his dribbling and pace, running at defenders. This year he’s added goals to his game playing more down the middle and is showing a hint of aggression in response to being one of the most fouled players in the league. Each week the goals are getting better, often from futher out or tighter angles. The hope is that his mentality is steely enough for the demands of European football, because the talent is certainly there. For a more in-depth look at Enciso check out this detailed report from last year.

Matías Segovia (19, Attacking Midfielder, Guaraní)

MatiSegovia

The attacking midfielder was captain of the U20s in the recent Copa Libertadores, but since returning from that competition he has been a starter in Fernando Jubero’s senior side. Nicknamed angujá (mouse) the diminutive midfielder has the ability to work in tight spaces and thread passes to break the lines. He already has a goal and an assist in just four games to date.

Marcos Gomez (20, Central Midfield, Olimpia)

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The central midfielder was promoted by Julio César Cáceres who saw something in him while coaching the reserves, and he has adapted very well. A physical midfielder who is mostly a ball winner and can play the direct passes needed in Olimpia’s current style. His performances in the league and Copa Libertadores has earned him a place in the Paraguay National Team for the first time this March.

Hugo Quintana (20, Central Midfield, Olimpia)

HugoQuintana

Another Olimpia midfielder, but a direct contrast to Gómez, Hugo Quintana plays more advanced like a traditional number 8 and can score goals as well as contribute to building attacking play. He was seen as a promise from very early on, making his debut as a 16 year old in 2018. After falling out of favour with Sergio Órteman it was Julio César Cáceres who made him captain of the reserves in 2021 before bringing him up to the first team. Watch out for his shooting from distance.

Carlos Espínola (22, Right Back, Nacional)

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Carlos Espínola is the son of the former Liga de Quito defender by the same name and he looks an exciting prospect at right back. His pace and crossing ability was a key part of Rodrigo López’s plan with Nacional in 2021 where he started 26 games nearly helping them qualify for the Copa Libertadores. The tricolor have really struggled this season without him, he only recently returned from injury.

Ezequiel Alfonso Aranda (22, Right winger, General Caballero JLM)

Aranda

The midfielder began his career at Libertad which is a strong producer of talent in Paraguay, so much so that he couldn’t find a way through to the first team there. His career was stunted by the pandemic, in 2019 he had been at River Plate and invited to National Team training camps but missed out on football in 2020. He impressed on loan at San Lorenzo in 2021 so General Caballero signed him for their first season in Primera. His dribbling ability and desire to drive towards the box has impressed.

By Ralph Hannah

2022 Copa Libertadores preview

The 2022 Copa Libertadores draw has pitted Paraguay’s biggest rivals together in the group stages for the first time this century. Olimpia and Cerro Porteño would both have hoped to progress from their group, now it might be at the expense of one another. Meanwhile Libertad have received a relatively favorable draw, like the other two Paraguay clubs they avoided the Brazilian and Argentinian giants.

Here we look at the fixtures in more depth and predict what could happen with our three teams in CONMEBOL’s premiere competition.

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Olimpia and Cerro Porteño in the Libertadores

GroupG

The sides first met in 1969 at Puerto Sajonia the earlier version of the Defensores del Chaco and it was El Ciclón that won both games that year, 4-1 and 2-1 respectively. Over the years El Decano have had more scucess of course, winning three Copa Libertadores titles and they also have a slight advantage in the head-to-head in the competition. The Rey de Copas have 11 wins to the azulgrana’s 9 with a total of twelve meetings ending in a draw, six of those were nil-nil.

Interestingly, despite those statistics it is Cerro Porteño who has finished above Olimpia more often in the group stages. In the 13 times they’ve played the group phase together the side from Barrio Obrero have finished ahead of their rival 10 times! There has only been one occasion, 1994, when Olimpia advanced and their old enemy didn’t.

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Olimpia’s chances

El Decano have already played six games to get to this point and knocked out two major clubs in Atlético Nacional and Fluminense. Confidence therefore is high that this side, a blend of experienced heads like Richard Ortiz and Antolín Alcaraz with young talent such as Marcos Gómez and Luis Zárate, can make a dent in the competition.

Current coach Julio César Cáceres has won the competition as an Olimpia player in 2002 and made deep runs in the tournament with Boca Juniors. He has developed a fairly simple but effective style that should see the side perform well against opposition that like the ball and in away games.

Head-to-Head records

vs Peñarol (Pld 14 W 4 D 3 L 7), previous meeting in Libertadores 1974 (L 0-2, D 0-0)
vs Colón de Santa Fe (Pld 2 W 1 D 0 L 1), previous meeting in Libertadores 1998 (W 1-0, L 2-3)
vs Cerro Porteño (Pld 32 W 11 D 12 L 9), previous meeting in Libertadores 1999 (D 2-2, L 3-4)

One to Watch: Fernando Cardozo – the creative midfielder usually plays wide but cuts inside to occupy space where he can link up with others. Although only 21 years old his experience in Primeira Liga in Portugal and technical ability make him a key player.

Prediction: A better unit than the team that made last year’s QFs so expect at least the same again.

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Cerro Porteño’s Chances

Chiqui Arce has built and rebuilt championship-winning sides over the last two years since returning to Cerro Porteño. The current crop is one of the best yet, having added internationally proven talent like Marcelo Martins and experienced Libertadores players such as last year’s finalist Robert Piris da Motta and semifinalist Williams Riveros. The team will be without Robert Morales who tore his ACL on his Paraguay debut, it will be a big blow but Arce always seems to find a way to adapt.

The style is possession based football in a classic 4-4-2 that allows for overlapping full backs and a contrasting central midfield with a strong ball winner (currently Rafael Carrascal) and a technical operator who can break the lines (Ángel “Pika” Lucena).

Head-to-Head records

vs Peñarol (Pld 4 W 1 D 1 L 2), previous meeting in Libertadores 1998 (L 0-2, W 3-0)
vs Colón de Santa Fe (Pld 2 W 2 D 0 L 0), first meeting in Libertadores (Sudamericana 2012 W 2-1 twice)
vs Olimpia (Pld 32 W 9 D 12 L 11), previous meeting in Libertadores 1999 (D 2-2, W 4-3)

One to watch: Alexis Duarte – an accomplished young centre half who is good on the ball and in the air. Last year he was dominant in the Copa other than when facing Hulk, with one more year experience he should be able to neutralize the continent’s leading strikers.

Prediction: If Morales hadn’t been injured then a QF place would have been bare minimum, now the reality is that knockout stages are a must but getting further will depend on kindness of draw.

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Club Libertad

GroupB

Despite enjoying so much domestic dominance, Daniel Garnero has mostly struggled in continental competition especially in the Copa Libertadores. Last year with a star-studded Gumarelo he managed to reach the Sudamericana semifinals before falling apart to eventual runners-up Bragantino.

The side has experience throughout the lines, from former finalist Martín Silva in goal to former Europa League and Champions League finalists up front, Óscar Cardozo and Roque Santa Cruz respectively. In midfield they have plenty of pace with Héctor Villalba and Antonio Bareiro vying for the right-hand side spot and Lorenzo Melgarejo down the left. The jewel is of course 18-year-old sensation Julio Enciso who is scoring goals and turning in Man of the Match performances on a weekly basis.

Head-to-Head records

vs Atlético Paranaense (Pld 2 W 0 D 0 L 2), previous meeting in Libertadores 2005 (L 1-2, L 0-1)
vs Caracas (Pld 2 W 1 D 0 L 1), previous meeting in Libertadores 2020 (W 3-2, L 1-2)
vs The Strongest (Pld 4 W 3 D 1 L 0), previous meeting in Libertadores 2019 (D 1-1, W 5-1)

One to Watch: While Julio Enciso is the obvious choice he might not be around for the knockout stages, assuming he moves to Europe, so a player that can really make an impact is Hugo Martínez. The central midfielder is a great presser but can also thread passes through defences, if he stays fit he’ll be important to the side.

Prediction: They have avoided the major sides in the group and with such a stacked roster the onus on Garnero will be semifinals. The reality is that, for whatever reason, they have lacked a cutting edge in the big games so a QF finish is more likely.

By Ralph Hannah

Apertura 2022 Week 7: Ameliano make history, Resistencia broken late on, Libertad still lead

Sportivo Ameliano produced the shock of the round with a 2-0 win against Olimpia who had been riding high following a clásico win and Libertadores qualification. Libertad stay on top and are now the only unbeaten side in the division after a late show from Cerro Porteño defeated Resistencia in Defensores del Chaco.

Ameliano

Humberto Garcia has a knack of beating Olimpia, the larger than life manager recorded his sixth win against the Rey de Copas having previously won five times while coaching General Díaz between 2013 and 2016. The home side had a full strength side, opting not to rest players from Wednesday’s epic penalty shootout win over Fluminense. Youngster Gustavo Caballero opened the scoring, a cross into the box hadn’t been cleared and Alex Arce showed great hold up play before poking the ball right to the 20-year-old attacker who made no mistake. It was an emotional moment for the self-confessed Olimpia fan to score against his boyhood club, less than a month ago he was starring in the reserves (netting a hattrick against General Caballero JLM) and now he delivered on the big stage. In the second half El Decano brought on their super sub Guillermo Paiva to try and force an equalizer, but instead it was the man off the bench for the V Azulada that made the difference. Antonio Oviedo had been sent in to find space on the counter attack and in a move started by Victor Ayala’s interception he rounded it off with a tap in after Olimpia once again failed to clear their lines. It seemed like the Copa Paraguay champions had run out of gas in the late stages, Derlis González missing a penalty. Oviedo literally ran out of petrol after the game, snapped in the street topping up his car but with a smile on his face after an historic win for the “club de barrio”.

On Saturday night Cerro Porteño needed to get their campaign back on the rails after the superclásico defeat, they faced a very difficult Resistencia side who had avoided defeat in the first six weeks. Marcelo Martins wasn’t named in the matchday squad, feeling discomfort in his foot, and it seemed the azulgrana were lacking a cutting edge as they went into the half goalless. A drop in intensity and Claudio Aquino just off the pace persisted into the second half until Rafael Carrascal found a ball to crack the low block and Cerro were in business. The Colombian’s through ball unsettled the 8 defenders between him and the goal and the effervescent Espínola played an inviting low pass across the box that Alan Benitez failed to turn in but Robert Morales wouldn’t make the same mistake. The goal sparked Chiqui Arce’s team into life and especially Aquino who scored a fantastic dinked freekick five minutes later and then provided the cross for Morales to head home his second of the game. 3-0 didn’t do Resistencia justice, but a reminder of just how good El Ciclón can be on their day.

Pantera

Like Cerro, Libertad needed to wait deep into the second half before getting the opening goal against Guaraní on route to another victory as they stay top by a single point. Julio Enciso cut a frustrated figure in the first half but the teenage sensation was rewarded for his perseverance with a goal and an assist. His corner kick to the far post was headed in by Óscar Cardozo, his 63rd league goal for Libertad and 85th in local football. Enciso then took advantage of Guaraní’s attempts to restore parity as they advanced high up the field; left with one defender on the halfway line he played in Hernesto Caballero (who did remarkably well to stay on his feet under Roberto Fernández’s attempt to pull him back) and the former Olimpia midfielder returned the pass for the joya to sweep home. A seventh league goal for Enciso in as many games, he has now surpassed his 2021 total already. It was a disappointing night in La Huerta for the aurinegro who didn’t manage a shot on target.

Tacuara

In the other games we saw Tacuary followed up on last week’s good result with a 2-1 win over a Nacional in freefall despite new management, Lucas Sanabria scored a brace for the boys from Barrio Jara. Guaireña recorded their first league win of the season, a late Diego Godoy penalty the difference against General Caballero JLM in the battle of the two Copa Sudamericana representatives. Finally Sol de América continue in good form (barring that brushing aside by Cerro) as Nildo Viera secured the points from the spot against 12 de Octubre in Itauguá.

Week 6 Results

Week7

Week 4 rearranged Fixture

Saturday 26th March – Sol de América vs Olimpia, Antonio Aranda, Ciudad del Este, 18:00 (17:00 EST; 21:00 GMT)

Apertura 2022 Week 6: Libertad new leaders and Olimpia win clásico

Libertad dispatched with a hapless Nacional on Monday night to move top of the league, displacing Cerro Porteño who lost for the first time this year to a resurgent Olimpia. Around the league Guaraní their second win of the season while Resistencia remain unbeaten, picking up a third successive draw.

Olimpiacelebrate

Cerro Porteño were odds on favourites to win the superclásico at La Nueva Olla, heading into the match with a 100% record in the league while their traditional rivals had returned from Río de Janeiro and were unlikely to play a full strength side. In the end Julio César Cáceres picked almost his best XI, opting for Néstor Camacho instead of Derlis González and Luis Zárate for Antolín Alcaraz. The visitors got off to a great start when Iván Torres’ low cross was tapped in by Ale Silva who had made a late run into the box. The assist wasn’t cut out by Willian Riveros in what was a difficult day for the central defender who seemed a step behind the pace of the game throughout, often anticipating passes but unable to win the duel. Chiqui Arce’s team dominated possession as had been expected, but their endeavour wasn’t rewarded as they failed to score for the first time in 13 games. Partly a profligate Robert Morales, but also an excellent job from Hugo Quintana and Marcos Gómez closing the spaces Aquino likes to operate in, and very compact defending inside the Olimpia box. When they did have the ball El Decano were direct and efficient, a counter-attacking clinic rounded off by Derlis González’s stoppage time goal to put the game beyond doubt, it was a fabulous pass from Fernando Cardozo who had another good game.

Cerro’s defeat meant Libertad could go top with a win on Monday night in the Arsenio Erico against a Nacional side that had parted ways with coach Hernán Rodrgio López earlier that week. Carlos Bonet debuted on the sidelines as coach having previously been the sporting director at the club. The Gumarelo went with their usual attacking line up and bombarded their rivals all game, the 3-0 scoreline could have been even more but for youngster Julio Enciso failing to finish off one of many chances. It was instead a night for the veterans, Cristian Riveros (38), Óscar Cardozo (39) and Roque Santa Cruz (40) the goalscorers in something reminiscent of the 2010 World Cup. Roque’s classy strike, his second since joining Libertad, was a reminder of the former Bayern Munich and Manchester City striker’s pedigree.

RoqueLibertad

Earlier in the weekend, Guaraní seem to be finding their feet again after the heartache of last year. Fernando Fernández is their all-time topscorer but had been on a four-month goal drought until finding the net from the penalty spot against 12 de Octubre the previous week. Against General Caballero JLM he was unstoppable, racking up his first hattrick since August 2015. The opener was set up by Josué Colmán after a well played through ball from Matías Segovia, remember the teengar was this blog’s “One to Watch” in the Apertura preview.

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In the other games we saw Tacuary pick up their first win of the season, a 2-0 victory over Sportivo Ameliano in what is a local derby, the clásico de Barrio Jara. Guaireña and 12 de Octubre played out a goalless draw in Villarrica as the home side remain winless, but have their eyes on Sudamericana qualification. Sol de América and Resistencia also failed to score in their opposition’s goal but drew 1-1 with Matías Duffard and Miguel Jacquet sharing own goals.

Week 6 Results

Week6results

Week 7 Fixtures 

Saturday 19th March – 12 de Octubre vs Sol de América, Luis Salinas, Itauguá, 18:00 (17:00 EST; 21:00 GMT)
Saturday 19th March – Resistencia vs Cerro Porteño, Defensores del Chaco, Asunción, 20:15 (19:15 EST; 23:15 GMT)
Sunday 20th March – Libertad vs Guaraní, La Huerta, Asunción, 18:00 (17:00 EST; 21:00 GMT)
Sunday 20th March – Olimpia vs Sportivo Ameliano, Manuel Ferreira, Asunción, 120:15 (19:15 EST; 23:15 GMT)
Monday 21st March – Tacuary vs Nacional, TBC, 18:00 (17:00 EST; 21:00 GMT)
Monday 21st March – General Caballero JLM vs Gauireña, Venue TBC*, 20:15 (19:15 EST; 23:15 GMT)

*General Caballero are hoping to use home stadium for first time

Copa Libertadores: Fluminense vs Olimpia preview

Fluminense vs Olimpia
Nilton Santos, Río de Janeiro, Brazil
24/02/2022; 19:30 (21:30 Paraguay; 00:30 GMT)
3rd Qualifying Round, 1st Leg

Only one round separates Olimpia and the Copa Libertadores group stages, but a Brazilian giant stands in their way. On Wednesday El Decano will try and beat Fluminense to record their first ever win in Río de Janiero after eight previous failed attempts. Julio César Cáceres’ team arrived in good spirits, currenlty on a run of 11 games unbeaten stretching back to the start of December. 

SSAleSilva

Seven players have started in all four Copa Libertadores games this season and there is no reason to expect any different in Río. The preferred backline is that of Salazar, Salcedo, Alcaraz and Torres with Alfredo Aguilar playing every game but the 2nd leg in Medellín. Derlis González and Jorge Recalde will surely lead the line, especially with Guillermo Paiva suspended. The main doubt will be in central midfield, Marcos Gómez had been preferred to Hugo Quintana, but the latter had a great game in the league on Sunday with the former suspended. Edgar Orzusa is also back from injury and travels to Brazil, he had played both games against UCV but was replaced by Richard Ortiz for the matches against Atlético Nacional. In terms of strategy we can expect Julio César Cáceres to set his side up to play on the counter attack, the most possession they’ve had so far was 42% in the home leg against Atlético Nacional. 

Abel Braga is searching for revenge, having been knocked out by the Paraguayans in the 2013 Quarter Finals he was heavily criticized by fans of the club. They drew the first leg 0-0 before falling in Asunción to a Juan Manuel Salgueiro brace, a few months later Braga was sacked. With over 30,000 tickets sold for this game the fans will be urging him to get the job done at home this time around. Club legend Fred was injured in the 1st leg against Millonarios so the pressure to score goals will be on Argentinian striker Germán Cano who had a short spell in Paraguay ten years ago when he played for Nacional. The other experienced hands that cause problems are Ganso, who was part of the Santos side that won the 2011 Libertadores and Felipe Melo who is still going aged 38. They go into the game in great form, eleven straight wins having only lost once this season (the State League opener against Bangú). 

Prediction: 0-0

Olimpia XI (probable): Gastón Olveira; Víctor Salazar, Saúl Salcedo, Antolín Alcaraz, Iván Torres; Alejandro Silva, Marcos Gómez, Edgardo Orzusa, Fernando Cardozo; Derlis González, Jorge Recalde.

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Stats and Facts

Olimpia vs Brazilian opposition overall (all continental competitions)

Pld 91 W 25 D 26 L 40 GF 101 GA 141

Olimpia in Brazil (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 29 W 2 D 11 L 16 GF 24 GA 56

Olimpia in Río de Janeiro (all continental competitions)

Pld 8 W 0 D 4 L 4 GF 8 GA 11

Olimpia last 6 away (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 6 W 2 D 2 L 2 GF 6 GA 13

The two defeats were to Brazilian sides Internacional and Flamengo

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Apertura 2022 Week 5: Olimpia break spell & Enciso excels

Cerro Porteño remain perfect with a sumptuous display against Sol de América, but they are being closely chased by an Enciso-inspired Libertad. Olimpia managed to end a 10-game winless run in the Manuel Ferreira (the longest in their history) as they warmed up for a big week of Libertadores action followed by the superclásico on Sunday.

HugoQuintana

Olimpia returned triumphant from Medellín and were already thinking about the 3rd Qualifying Phase against Fluminense next week. So much so they sent a request to the APF to have Sunday’s game against Tacuary postponed. The petition was rejected so Julio César Cáceres fielded a team with 8 changes from their previous league game against Libertad. It was 20-year-old midfielder Hugo Quintana who gave them the lead with a fine strike from distance, his seventh for the club. Deep into the 2nd half Quintana turned provider for veteran Néstor Camacho notched his 110th goal in Paraguayan Primera, lobbing Carlos Servín for his third goal against Tacuary all from different clubs. Previously he’d scored against them with Rubio Ñú (2010) and Libertad (2012). The victory keeps Olimpia on a respectable 8 points from four games.

Earlier on Sunday evening Libertad overcame Sportivo Ameliano with relative ease, the Gumarelo scoring a goal in each half to see off the La V Azulada. Once again it was the mesmerising Julio Enciso who took the plaudits, playing deep to pick up the ball and break the lines with a pacy run after a give-and-go. His left foot strike was palmed away but only as far as Tito Villalba who tapped in his first goal since August. In the 2nd half, as Libertad allowed their opponent more possession, Enciso was lurking high up on the left-hand side anticipating a counter attack. Having latched onto a Canale long ball, he seemed to be outside of scoring range even when he carried the ball into the box, but from a tight angle he precisely side-footed past Cristóforo to bring up his sixth of the season. Late on Wily Mendieta almost made it three but saw his freekick cannon off the crossbar.

JulioEnciso

Cerro Porteño were rampant against Sol de América on Saturday with Chiqui Arce’s team romping to a 4-0 win, hugely impressive considering the Danzarín hadn’t conceded in their opening three matches. Once again Robert Morales continued his rich run of form with a brace. His first goal a smart finish having dropped off his marker on the edge of the box to dispatch Rafael Carrascal’s pinpoint pass. The second was a real poacher’s effort, pouncing on a mistake by Godoy in defence to slam home first time on the half turn. Sandwiched in between his goals was a Claudio Aquino penalty and a Beto Espínola tap in after Marcelo Martins header was well saved. The CONMEBOL WCQs topscorer had a good game but is still searching for his first goal for the azulgrana.

Friday night has seen Nacional finally pick up a win after nine matches without a victory, they defeated General Caballero JLM and it was the talented Richard Prieto who got the 2nd goal which proved to be the winner. On Saturday there was a 2-2 draw between Resistencia and Guaireña as the team from the Chacarita were involved in another exciting match up. The in form Diego Martínez opened the scoring but in the second half Torres’ side conceded twice, the second Guaireña goal a great individual effort from Venezuelan Yeiber Murillo. A Ronaldo Martínez spotkick salvaged Resi’s unbeaten record.

MatiSegovia

The week was rounded off on Monday night in Itauguá, Guaraní finally got their first league win of the season as they defeated the hosts 12 de Octubre by a 3-1 scoreline. Youngster Matías Segovia was Man of the Match for his performance, grabbing an assist in the first half and scoring from the spot in the second.

Week 5 Results

Week6

Week 6 Fixtures 

Friday 11th March – Sportivo Ameliano vs Tacuary, Martin Torres, Asunción 19:00 (17:00 EST; 22:00 GMT)
Saturday 12th March – Sol de América vs Resistencia, Luis A. Giagni, Villa Elisa, 18:00 (16:00 EST; 21:00 GMT)
Saturday 12th March – Guaraní vs General Caballero JLM, Dos Bocas, Asunción, 20:15 (18:15 EST; 23:15 GMT)
Sunday 13th March – Cerro Porteño vs Olimpia, La Nueva Olla, Asunción, 18:00 (17:00 EST; 21:00 GMT)
Monday 14th March – Guaireña vs 12 de Octubre, Parque del Gauirá, Villarrica, 18:00 (17:00 EST; 21:00 GMT)
Monday 14th March – Nacional vs Libertad, Arsenio Erico, Asunción, 20:15 (19:15 EST; 23:15 GMT)