Apertura Week 15: Title Race Trio Previews

We’re into the final stretch of the Paraguay Apertura with four games left and three points separating Libertad and their direct rivals Olimpia and Cerro Porteño. All three sides lost in midweek to Brazilian opposition and will need to show some “bouncebackability” in tricky games over the weekend. We preview the three matches here.

Cerro Porteño vs Nacional
La Olla, Asunción
08/05/2021; 20:00 (01:00 BST)
TV: Tigo Sports (Paraguay)

Chiqui Arce’s Cerro Porteño threw their hat into the title race ring last week with a distinguished victory in the superclásico against Olimpia. The azulgrana were brought back down to earth in midweek being on the wrong end of a 4-0 thrashing against Atlético Mineiro but the squad spirit should be high enough to pick themselves up for this one. El Ciclón have been dominant at home in the league under Chiqui Arce, winning 16, drawing four and losing just one (the recent 0-3 reverse against Libertad) since March 2020. With a tight squad we can’t expect many changes from the recent games against Olimpia and Atlético Mineiro, the Lucena/Villasanti combination is likely to prevail and the question is whether he plays with two strikers or Boselli drops to the bench for Carrizo or the teenager Fernando Ovelar who has impressed in recent games. 

Nacional are just a point behind their Barrio Obrero neighbours but they will feel they missed a huge opportunity last week losing 3-1 to Guaireña. In recent games they’ve had the upper hand, winning the last two and Cerro’s last victory (a 1-0 win in September 2020) was against a team depleted by COVID-19. Hernán Rodrigo López’s high pressing style has often caused trouble in this fixture and it is likely Cristian Riveros and Edgar Zaracho will be trying to force the issue again on Saturday. On the right hand side it will be interesting to see how Carlos Espínola and Orlando Gaona Lugo fare against Santiago Arzamendia. That could be a key battle. 

Prediction: 1-1

Cerro Porteño XI (possible): Martínez; Espínola, Patiño, Duarte, Arzamendia; Giménez, Villasanti, Lucena, Aquino, Carrizo; Morales

Nacional XI (possible): Rojas; Espínola, Garay, Núñez, Clar; Gaona Lugo, Riveros, Zaracho, Ayala; Arrúa, Murillo

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Olimpia vs Sol de América
Manuel Ferreira, Asunción
09/05/2021; 17:45 (22:45 BST)
TV: Tigo Sports (Paraguay)

Olimpia return to action days after their worst ever performance in Brazil, a humiliating 6-1 defeat, that came on the back of losing the superclásico. Despite Órteman’s troubles since taking over he has been generally consistent at home in the league beating River Plate (5-1) and Guaraní (2-1) while drawing with 12 de Octubre (2-2). The theme of course has been goals and on Sunday the plan will be to outscore an opponent even lower on morale. Trying to predict El Decano’s lineup has been a thankless task of late but with Ramón Sosa seemingly back to full fitness he is likely to start on the left side of midfield. With Roque Santa Cruz out until next season with a knee injury, and Pollo Recalde out of sorts we could also see Derlis González play a part against Sol de América as the 27-year-old forward returns from a long injury layoff.

Sol de América are rudderless having relieved Ever Almeida of his duties after winning just one of his five games in charge. His replacement, in a curious turn of events, is his son Iván Almeida! The Danzarín have been an enigma this season, on paper a good side but simply unable to string together any kind of form winning just twice this year against 12 de Octubre and River Plate. Osvaldo Martínez has returned from injury and he had the quality to try and make a difference in this match up.

Prediction: 3-1

Olimpia XI (probable): Aguilar; Otálvaro, Salcedo, Cáceres, I.Torres; D.Torres, Quintana, J.Santacruz, Camacho; Recalde, D. González

Sol de América XI (possible): Gavilán; Noguera, Portillo, Villalba, Jiménez; Pardo, Úbeda, Martínez, Valdez, Ortiz; Viera

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Libertad vs 12 de Octubre
Nicolás Leóz, Asunción
09/05/2021; 17:45 (22:45 BST)
TV: Tigo Sports (Paraguay)

League leaders Libertad were the only Paraguayan side to play at home this week in continental competition and they lost 1-2 to Atlético Goianiense. It was only the Gumarelo’s second home defeat of the year following that 0-1 against Olimpia last month. Daniel Garnero has been rotating his deep squad between both competitions and there is an argument to suggest his local league lineup is slightly stronger. Óscar Cardozo has played more minutes in the Apertura than any of his teammates, a clear sign of how seriously they are taking the domestic tournament. We’re also likely to see the speedsters Tito Villalba and Julio Enciso back in the starting XI on Sunday. One big player missing is the central defender Barboza who is suspended with five yellow cards to his name.

12 de Octubre also played in the Copa Sudamericana on Thursday night, the good news is they picked up an impressive draw against San Lorenzo but the disadvantage is that they played away. However, the Globo from Itauguá are on a great 11-game unbeaten run and in the local league they have won three of their last five. Pedro Sarabia has built the side to be defensive but incisive on the break, against San Lorenzo they had 33% possession but created 12 chances. The experienced side with players like Mauro Cardozo, Paulo Da Silva, Víctor Cáceres and Pablo Velázquez will be doing their best to disrupt Libertad where they can.

Prediction: 1-0

Libertad XI (possible): Silva; Piris, Báez, Viera, Cougo; Villalba, Bocanegra, Bogarín, Delvalle; Enciso, Cardozo

12 de Octubre XI (possible): Cardozo; Manenti, Jacquet, Da Silva, Mendieta; Ayala, Rios, Cáceres, Aguilar, Salinas; Velázquez

For more Paraguayan football check out Guaraní Vision with new episodes every week, and follow me on Twitter for updates around local matches.

Paraguay Superclásico: A History

Cerro Porteño take on Olimpia on Saturday evening for the 311th time in the league with El Ciclón having won 108 games as opposed to El Decano’s 106, it will be only the fifth encounter in La Olla where the visitors have only been victorious once in 1981. Rather than previewing the match, here is some of the history behind this fixture. 

Origins of the rivalry

The first meeting between the sides was back in 1913 less than a year after Cerro Porteño’s foundation, it ended 2-2 (although some sources say Cerro won 3-1) in the year that the azulgrana were crowned champions for the first time. At that moment Olimpia’s main competitor were Guaraní as both clubs were the oldest in the division, but the rivalry with the new “upstarts” began the very next year in 1914. At the end of the league season both sides were level on 15 points, so they had to play a one-off game to decide who became champions. That turned into three games as the first two matches ended in draws. In the third contest the founders of Paraguayan football won 3-2 to win their second ever title. 

olimpia_campeon_lpf_1912

History would repeat itself in 1915, in the regular season Cerro thrashed Olimpia 5-1 only for the next meeting to finish 5-0, and then with the sides locked on the same number of points it was time for another playoff. A 1-1 draw at Sol de América’s ground called for a replay, this time on Nacional’s pitch then known as Quinta Stewart. The hotly-disputed ninety minutes ended in a 4-4 draw, rather than play for a third time (as they had done the previous year) the teams had 30 minutes of extra time. In that half hour the boys from Barrio Obrero blew away their opponent with three goals to run out 7-4 winners, and that is how their nickname El Ciclón (The Cyclone) was born. 

1916 would see Olimpia win their third title, before Cerro won in 1918 and 1919 to reach four championships – at that point no other side had won the league more times so the relatively “young” side were now the team to beat and had replaced Guaraní as El Decano‘s main rival. 

Big wins, Big games, Big goals

In 1916, just after Cerro Porteño had scored seven after extra time the sides played a friendly to warm up for the new season. Olimpia took out their frustration on their rivals with a 10-1 thumping that remains their biggest win in this victory. 

In a competitive game the highest margin of victory was 8-1 by Cerro Porteño in 1937 in the first round of the championship, although Olimpia would have the last laugh pipping them to the title by a single point. Pedro Osorio scored four goals in that clash, a record that stood for 68 years until Dante López equalled it in a 4-1 win for Olimpia. In 2019 Roque Santa Cruz became the third player to score a “póker” in the derby during a 4-2 victory. 

With the introduction of continental competition it was Cerro Porteño who drew first blood when they secured a comfortable 4-1 win in 1969. In 1998 Olimpia would win by a bigger margin in the Libertadores as they ran out 5-1 winners. The Libertadores game with the most goals was a thrilling 4-3 win for Cerro over nine-man Olimpia who had clawed back from 3-0 down to make a game of it. A teenage Roque Santa Cruz scored twice in that match. 

In fact, Roque was the youngest-ever scorer in the clásico in when he scored in the 1998 Finalísima (Grand Final) aged just 17 years 3 months. That record stood until Sergio Díaz opened the scoring for the azulgrana in 2015, he was a couple of months younger. The record was blown away by Fernando Ovelar in 2018, aged just 14 at the time he was handed a suprise start and shocked everybody opening the scoring for El Ciclón.

More recently there have been two standout games that decide the title, the first came in 2012 the final game of the Apertura. Olimpia had been on course to win the title but slipped up in the penultimate fixture against Sportivo Luqueño meaning they only had a one point advantage over Cerro going into the finale. In the first half the azulgrana were awarded a penalty which Santiago Salcedo converted for Jorge Fossati’s team. Salcedo was involved again in the second half as he won a dangerous freekick on the edge of the box. Jonathan Fabbro stood over the dead ball and dispatched it into the far corner leaving Martín Silva no chance as half of the Defensores went wild. They ended up 2-1 winners.

In 2015 it seemed history would repeat itself as Olimpia, then managed by Chiqui Arce, threw away an advantage towards the end of the Clausura having seemingly overcome Cerro Porteño who had also stumbled. An inexplicable 0-0 home draw to relegated Santaní on the final day, while Cerro came from behind to beat Sol de América, meant the sides would have to play a title decider, just as they had done 100 years previously. It was a charged affair in a downpour in Defensores del Chaco, Cerro Porteño had a goal disallowed in the first half and a player sent off in the second but by then they were already 2-0 down to goals from el Zorro Bareiro and a Lugano own goal. Beltrán pulled one back but it wasn’t enough and Olimpia celebrated even while their opponents remonstrated in the tunnel. 

Scoring for both sides

Many players, and coaches, have switched between the country’s two biggest clubs although the only man to have scored three goals for each club in clásicos is Miguel Ángel Sanabria. Born in Valenzuela in the Cordillera region but raised out in the east near Caaguazú he debuted in Cerro in the mid-80s and lived under the stands in La Olla for two years as a youth team player. Nicknamed the “Cabecita de Oro” (Little golden head) for his aerial ability he was champion with both Cerro and later Olimpia in the 90s, also reaching the 1991 Copa Libertadores final with the La O. 

Pablo Zeballos began life at Sol de América, but had his greatest season at Cerro in 2010 just missing out on the title. But just months later he was at arch-rivals Olimpia and in a heated superclásico in the 2011 Apertura he scored the winner and didn’t hold back in his celebrations. On his return to the club, after a stint in Europe, he scored again in 2015 becoming the only other player after Sanabria to score multiple goals for both sides. 

Pablo Zeballos in the 2011 clásico

Copa Libertadores: Olimpia vs Always Ready preview

Olimpia vs Always Ready
Estadio Manuel Ferreira a.k.a Para Uno, Asunción
28/04/2021; 22:00 (03:00 BST)
Group B, Game 2

Olimpia receive Bolivian outfit Always Ready in what has already become a must-win high-stakes game for Sergio Órteman after they gave away a lead in Venezuela to lose to Deportivo Táchira. This is their easiest game of the group in theory against the team from El Alto who are in their first Copa Libertadores since 1968. It will be El Decano‘s first game against a Bolivian side in this competition since 1994 when they defeated Bolívar 2-0.  

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Olimpia beat Guaraní 2-1 at the weekend but the goal conceded, very similar to a goal they allowed in San Cristobal, means that the side have kept just one cleansheet in their previous eight games. With that in mind there is a strong suggestion that Órteman will opt for Gastón Olveira in goal. The coach will surely be tempted to include Diego Polenta in central defence too but the Uruguayan’s lack of match practice (he recently returned from a long injury) is a concern. One change that will be forced upon the home team is in midfield, Alejandro Silva is of course suspended following his red card in the previous match, Marcelo Estigarribia is the most likely player to fill that role.  

Always Ready recorded their first ever Libertadores win against Internacional on matchday one, the altitude clearly helped but it was still an impressive performance. One player that will be very familiar with Paraguayan football is Nelson Cabrera, born in Itaugúa, he made his debut with Olimpia before moving to archrivals Cerro Porteño winning the championship there in 2005. Alongside the 38-year-old defender are other veterans of the Bolivian national team such as goalkeeper Carlos Lampe (34), midfielder Juan Arce (36) and ex-Arsenal player Samuel Galindo. 

Prediction: 3-1 – there should be enough quality for the Olimpia side to win, but it might be a nervy evening if they can’t keep a cleansheet. 

Olimpia XI (possible): Gastón Olveira; Sergio Otálvaro, Luis Cáceres, Antolín Alcaraz, Iván Torres; Richard Ortiz, Rodrigo Rojas, Ramón Sosa, Marcelo Estigarribia; Jorge Recalde, Walter González

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Stats and Facts

Olimpia vs Bolivian opposition overall (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 15 W 9 D 2 L 4 GF 29 GA 15

Olimpia’s biggest win was 4-0 against Bolívar in 1969, 

Olimpia in at home to Bolivian sides (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 7 W 6 D 0 L 1 GF 21 GA 7

The only defeat was in 1988 against Oriente Petrolero in the Defensores del Chaco when Brazilian striker Carlos Da Silva scored twice. 

Olimpia in Asunción (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 184 W 95 D 49 L 40 GF 302 GA 187

Olimpia recent home record (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 6 W 2 D 1 L 3 GF 7 GA 8

Olimpia have lost three of their last four in the Manuel Ferreira, the only victory was against Defensa y Justicia.  

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Copa Libertadores: Cerro Porteño vs Deportivo La Guairá preview

Cerro Porteño vs Deportivo La Guairá
La Nueva Olla, Asunción, Paraguay
28/04/2021; 18:00 Paraguay (23:00 BST)
Group H, Game 2

Cerro Porteño go into the game two with the foundation of an impressive win against América de Cali in Colombia, they will be looking to double their points tally in what is on paper their easiest match to remain in control at the top of the group. Chiqui Arce will be hoping to maintain the azulgrana’s proud record against Venezuelan sides at home (W 8, D 3, L 0) but his opposite number Daniel Farías is no stranger to Asunción. He was César Farías’ assistant when the Venezuelan managed Cerro Porteño in 2016 for a few months. 

Cerro Porteño vs Zamora, also of Venezuela, 2013

Cerro Porteño wona tough game on Sunday evening against Guaireña as both teams tried to stay alive in the title race. Topscorer Robert Morales, who opened his Libertadores account against América de Cali, wasn’t in the matchday squad as a precauation but is expected to be included in the Libertadores lineup. Against América de Cali we saw Chiqui Arce play with one striker and allow the opponent to have the ball and they effectively picked them off on the counter attack with faster wide players. However, you would imagine with this being a home game El Ciclón will play their more typical possession style. Goalkeeper Jean, who won Man of the Match last week, is likely to continue as the Copa goalkeeper after an eventful weekend in Ciudad del Este (he is ineligible for the local league) picking up a fine from the traffic police on the journey!

Deportivo La Guairá drew their opening match against Atlético Mineiro before drawing 0-0 at the weekend to record their third successive tie since resuming competition this year. That domestic game saw six changes (including a debut for 16-year-old Kervin Andrade) from the grand Libertadores result as Farías clearly wants to prioritize the continental competition. Venezuelan football expert and author Jordan Florit spoke about Deportivo La Guairá recently on Guaraní Vision and noted that one of the players to watch out for is “tidy central midfielder” Carlos Cermeño now 25 years old who previously played in the MLS for Dallas and was pinched from rivals Deportivo Táchira at the start of the year.

Prediction: 1-0 maybe some early struggles to break down the opposition but Cerro Porteño should have enough to record their second win.

Cerro Porteño XI (possible): Jean; Alberto Espínola, Alexis Duarte, Juan Patiño, Santiago Arzamendia; Enzo Giménez, Ángel Lucena, Mathías Villasanti, Claudio Aquino; Mauro Boselli, Roberto Morales

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Stats and Facts

Cerro Porteño vs Venezuelan opposition overall  (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 22 W 14 D 5 L 3 GF 44 GA 21

Cerro’s biggest win was a 6-0 away win against Caracas FC in 1995 with Héctor Núñez and Lilio Torales scoring hattricks.

Cerro Porteño at home vs Venezuelan opposition (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 11 W 8 D 3 L 0 GF 23 GA 10

Their record at La Olla is W 5 D1 with Nelson Haedo the topscorer (4 goals) followed by Santiago Salced (3 goals in one game)

Cerro Porteño in Asunción (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 175 W 85 D 55 L 35 GF 268 GA 177

Their first game in Asunción against Venezuelan opposition was a 1-0 win over Deportivo Italia (now Deportivo Petaré) on 31st March 1969. Severiano Irala scored the only goal of the game.

Cerro Porteño recent home record (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 6 W 4 D 1 L 1 GF 9 GA 7

Looking only at group stages games and the record improves to W 5 D 1 the only tie being 0-0 to defending champions Gremio in 2018, in fact their last defeat was back in 2013 against Independiente de Santa Fe.

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Copa Libertadores: América de Cali vs Cerro Porteño preview

América de Cali vs Cerro Porteño
Estadio Alfonso López, Bucaramanga, Colombia
21/04/2021; 22:00 Paraguay (21:00 Colombia; 03:00 BST)
Group H, Game 1

Chiqui Arce has another crack at the continental competition he won twice as a player with Gremio (1995) and Palmeiras (1999). It will be his fourth Libertadores campaign as coach of El Ciclón, his best run coming in 2014 the only time they progressed past the group stage only to lose agonizingly to Cruzeiro in the Last 16. With Cerro dropping points in their last two league games, conceding six goals, they will arrive in Colombia on one of their more challenging moments of the season.

 

The Estadio Alfonso López in Bucaramanga where América de Cali will play home games; Credit: Vanguardia.com

Cerro Porteño traveled late on Monday, deciding to have a training session in Paraguay before flying to Colombia. There is unlikely to be many surprises in terms of line-up nor formation – the side essentially picks itself. One possible change is between the sticks, youngster Miguel Martínez hasn’t been at obvious fault for the six goals he conceded in two games but they do have Brazilian stopper Jean available for the Libertadores. Up front we can expect to see the experienced Mauro Boselli who has 18 Copa Libertadores goals to his name for four different clubs. He is likely to be partnered by the increasingly impressive Robert Morales, the 22-year-old from Concepción has six goals this season, often a threat from the edge of the area.

América de Cali are currently in eighth position in the Colombian Primera having improved defensively of late, conceding just two in their last five games. In the Libertadores however they do have a strange home record, unable to win any of their last seven dating back to 2005. Their last home win against a Paraguayan side was against 12 de Octubre in 2003 when Julián Vázquez scored a hattrick for Los Diablos Rojos. Historically the Colombian side have a great affinity to Paraguay through the late Roberto Cabañas who fired them to the Copa Libertadores final three times in a row. He had also represented Cerro Porteño in the competition in 1980.

Prediction: 1-1 with both sides likely to be nervy in this opener knowing that they will probably be rivals for the second place spot.

Cerro Porteño XI (possible): Jean; Alberto Espínola, Alexis Duarte, Juan Patiño, Santiago Arzamendia; Enzo Giménez, Ángel Lucena, Mathías Villasanti, Claudio Aquino; Mauro Boselli, Roberto Morales

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Stats and Facts

Cerro Porteño vs Colombia opposition overall  (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 38 W 11 D 11 L 16 GF 28 GA 45

Cerro’s only win by a two-goal margin was a 2-0 win in El Campín in 1985 against Millonarios.

Cerro Porteño in Colombia (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 19 W 3 D 4 L 12 GF 12 GA 27

The azulgrana’s last win in Colombia was back in 2003, a 1-0 victory over DIM with a goal from Jorge Núñez. Although they would lose the resulting penalty shootout.

Cerro Porteño in Cali (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 5 W 1 D 1 L 3 GF 3 GA 9

They have played América de Cali twice (the other times were against Deportivo Cali) losing 2-0 in 1985, winning 2-1 in 1998. This will be their first time ever in Bucaramanga.

Cerro Porteño recent away record (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 6 W 0 D 3 L 3 GF 9 GA 9

All of Chiqui Arce’s four wins as Cerro manager in the Copa Libertadores were home games. Away he has three draws and six defeats.

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Copa Libertadores: Deportivo Táchira vs Olimpia preview

Deportivo Táchira vs Olimpia
Polideportivo de Pueblo Nuevo, San Cristobal, Venezuela
20/04/2021; 18:15 (23:15 BST)
Group B, Game 1

Olimpia return to the Copa Libertadores for the 43rd time and the most successful Paraguayan side in recent years (five titles in last six seasons) are desperate for a proper shot at winning the tournament for the fourth time in their history. Since 2013, when they reached the final, they have had several false starts only making it out of the group stages once (2019) in five attempts. Under new coach Sergio Órteman, a two-time winner of the tournament with Olimpia and Boca Juniors, there is renewed hope around the club. 

Olimpia’s first training session in Venezuela, Credit: Olimpia Media

 
The Decano arrived in Venezuela on Sunday coming from a good win against title rivals Guaireña on Friday in the local league. Fatigue will surely be a factor for some of the more regular starters having done a long bus trip to Villarrica in Paraguay before flying over 6,500 km to San Cristobal (for reference, that 1,000 km longer than London to New York!). Both Néstor Camacho and Marcelo Estigarribia were rested in the league match so you would suspect they play a part from the start in El Templo Sagrado on Tuesday night. Roque Santa Cruz returned successfully from injury, he has four goals in the Copa Libertadores since returning in 2017. The two in-form players are most definitely Jorge “Pollo” Recalde who has seven league goals and Alejandro Silva who played in this fixture in 2016, he got a double against Guaireña and has been Órteman’s top performer since taking over.

The Venezuelans have built up their squad for a run at the Libertadores, hoping to emulate their 2004 showing where they reached the Quarter Finals. This is their first appearance in the group stages since 2016 where they also played Olimpia in the opener in San Cristobal, winning 2-1 and eventually pipping the Paraguayans to second spot in the group. Like their opponents they won 2-1 in the local league on Friday in what was the first game of the season. Fredy Góndola, the 25-year-old Panamanian forward who starred with Yaracuyanos last year, is one of the key signings. 

Watch/Listen to get an in-depth analysis of both Deportivo Táchira and Deportivo La Guairá on our special edition of Guaraní Vision with Venezuelan football expert Jordan Florit available on YouTube and Spotify

Prediction: 0-2 – Órteman has got his team winning despite not finding the perfect formula yet in terms of tactics/style. That can count for a lot on these tricky Libertadores nights. 

Olimpia XI (possible): Alfredo Aguilar; Sergio Otálvaro, Saúl Salcedo, Antolín Alcaraz, Iván Torres; Rodrigo Rojas, Alejandro Silva, Marcelo Estigarribia; Néstor Camacho, Jorge Recalde, Roque Santa Cruz

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Stats and Facts

Olimpia vs Venezuelan opposition overall  (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 8 W 5 D 2 L 1 GF 25 GA 9

Olimpia’s biggest wins against Venezuelan sides is 5-0 (home vs Caracas), 5-1 (away vs Dep. Lara) and 4-0 (home vs Táchira). 

Olimpia in Venezuela (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 5 W 2 D 2 L 1 GF 10 GA 6

The only defeat was in the 2016 against Táchira, in 2013 they defeated Deportivo Lara 5-1 their best away win in the competition. 

Olimpia in San Cristóbal (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 2 W 0 D 1 L 1 GF 1 GA 2

Other than the 2-1 reverse mentioned above to Táchira, they played Atlético Nacional in the 1991 semifinals and drew 0-0. Colombian clubs had been banned from playing in Colombia at the time due to threats against referees in the 1990 tournament. 

Olimpia recent away record (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 6 W 1 D 3 L 2 GF 9 GA 9

Olimpia are winless in their last five, in fact they only have one victory in their last 18 away games. 

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Apertura Week 12: Guaireña vs Olimpia preview

Guaireña vs Olimpia Parque del Guairá, Villarrica 16/04/2021; 18:00 (23:00 BST) TV: Tigo Sports (Paraguay) Fifth-placed Guaireña receive third-placed Olimpia in the opening game of Week 12, a win for either side could see them go top of the table in what has been an incredibly tight title race. Neither team won last week with El Decano rescuing a late point against 12 de Octubre in a strange game where they struggled in a new system; meanwhile Guaireña fell behind to Libertad in the first half and were unable to salvage a point but came close with Fernando Romero missing a penalty at 2-1 in Tuyucuá.
Troadio Duarte has created an organized side that is happy to play without the ball and is happy to create chances on the counter attack. The experienced backbone of Salustiano Candia (37) and Miguel Paniagua (33) in defence with Jorge Mendoza (31) in central midfield and Facundo Parra (35) up front is surrounded by exciting youngsters like forward Fernando Romero (20) and Feliciano Brizuela (24). Barring injury Duarte will set up the same side that played against Libertad hoping that they can defend the direct passing better. Sergio Orteman put together a very strange line up against 12 de Octubre as he tried to play Marcelo Estigarribia in central midfield. With the Copa Libertadores on the horizon there is a feeling that tomorrow will see a “mix” rather than a full strength side. Roque Santa Cruz is back in training and could play a part, while Diego Polenta is yet to return to the fold. Prediction: 2-1 – with Olimpia having one eye on the trip to Venezuela and Orteman yet to find his perfect system, the home team should take advantage. Guaireña’s organization from set pieces could bear fruit with Alcaraz suspended. Guaireña XI (probable): Héctor Espínola; Aquilino Giménez, Miguel Paniagua, Salusitano Candia, Nelson Ruiz; Feliciano Brizuela, Jorge Mendoza, Rosalino Toledo, Lucas González; Facundo Parra, Fernando Romero Olimpia XI (probable): Alfredo Aguilar; Alan Benítez, Saúl Salcedo, Luis Cáceres, Iván Torres; Hugo Quintana, Richard Ortiz; Ramón Sosa, Alejandro Silva; Jorge Recalde, Roque Santa Cruz By Ralph Hannah

Copa Libertadores: Atlético Nacional vs Libertad preview

Atlético Nacional vs Libertad
Atanasio Girardot, Medellín
14/04/2021; 20:30 (01:30 BST)
Third Preliminary Round, 2nd Leg

Libertad hold a slender 1-0 lead going into the second leg in Medellín with a lucrative place in Group F of the 2021 Copa Libertadores at stake. They found themselves in exactly the same position two years ago, and lost that game but went through on penalties. Coincidentally it was defensive midfielder Daniel Bocanegra who missed Atlético Nacional’s penalty, he is expected to line up for Libertad on Wednesday. 

EyawK9XXEAAFy5r Javier Báez celebrates his late goal in the 1st leg in Asunción. Credit: Club Libertad Prensa

The Gumarelo come off a big win against title rivals Guaireña in the domestic league in which they played a much-changed side from the 1st leg victory, proving just how deep this squad is. They have only lost once (to Olimpia) in the last eight games in all competitions, yet there have still been lingering doubts over what is Garnero’s best side. In some respects his hand has been forced with injuries to Óscar Cardozo, Bautista Merlini and Rodrigo Bogarín meaning they don’t make the trip. That means we’re likely to see a pairing of Sebastián Ferreira and Adrián Martínez up front who will try and pressure El Verde while also providing easy outlets. In midfield we might see a start for Tito Villalba after the 26-year-old former San Lorenzo star had a great game on Sunday, scoring once and having another goal disallowed. 

Watch/Listen to more of our thoughts on the latest episode of Guaraní Vision available on YouTube and Spotify

The Colombian side are in a dilemma, they must attack and score but Guimarães also knows he can’t leave his side to exposed to the counter attack as a Libertad goal would almost write off the tie. In the first leg his side looked better once Vladimir Hernández replaced Michael Chacón, but for this game they will be hoping to call on Brayan Rovira who is the glue that holds this team together in midfield. With him back in the fold it could allow them to play a possession game and try to wear down the visitors over time without leaving gaps behind. With that in mind I’m expecting a quite tentative approach in the first 25-30 minutes of this one. 

Prediction: 0-0 – in what could become quite a nervy and attritional game I can see Libertad’s defence doing enough to repel their opponents and they have no reason to take risks. However, if Atlético Nacional were to score early then there is a chance this game goes the other way and becomes a slug fest as Garnero would surely try to respond by attacking and his team are more than capable of scoring multiple goals. 

Libertad XI (probable): Martín Silva; Iván Piris, Cristian Báez, Alexander Barboza, Matías Espinoza; Hugo Martínez, Daniel Bocanegra; Iván Franco, Héctor Villalba; Adrián Martínez, Sebastián Ferreira

Atlético Nacional XI (probable): Quintana; Yerson Candelo, Yerson Mosquera, Emanuel Olivera, Danovis Banguero; Brayan Rovira, Baldomera Perlaza, Sebastián Gómez; Jarlan Barrera, Andrés Andrade; Jonatan Álvez.

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Stats and Facts

Libertad vs Colombian opposition overall  (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 21 W 8 D 6 L 7 GF 25 GA 29

Libertad vs Colombian opposition away (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 10 W 2 D 3 L 5 GF 8 GA 15

The two wins were against América de Cali (2005 in Pascual Guerrero) and DIM (2020 in Atanasio Girardot)

Libertad in Medellín (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 4 W 1 D 0 L 3 GF 4 GA 10

Libertad have played Atlético Nacional twice before, losing 4-0 in 2015 and losing 1-0 in 2019 but progressing on penalties. 

Libertad recent away record (Copa Libertadores)

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

Libertad have managed to score in 4 of their last 6 away games, only failing in the Allianz Arena vs Palmeiras (0-3) and La Bombonera vs Boca (0-0)

Óscar Cardozo is the all-time topscorer for Libertad in this competition, he has three of the last six away goals for the Gumarelo. 

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Apertura Week 11: Olimpia, Cerro Porteño and Libertad vs Guaireña previews

Written by Daniel Mandl

In the Paraguayan Apertura, the top half of the league is currently only separated by a point. Olimpia, Guaireña, Libertad, Cerro Porteño and Nacional compete head-to-head for the top. Here we provide a preview of the upcoming games from the clubs at the top.

In the 10th round of Apertura, Olimpia took the lead with a 1-0 away win at Libertad. The former Libertad player Jorge “Pollo” Recalde kept up his good form and scored the only goal of the game. However, as Overlyzer’s live statistics and trends show, Olimpia’s victory was rather fortuitous because Libertad were the better team for the duration of the game. The hosts had 60% possession, more shots on goal and corner kicks – yet the only strike of the game came from the record 45-time champions looking for a sixth title in seven seasons.

After the success in this difficult clash, El Decano should be able to play a little more relaxed on Saturday. Their opponent will be 12 de Octubre, who have struggled in the previous away games. The goal difference after five away games is 4-4. So there are only 1.6 goals per game on average when the team plays away. This value is well below the league average of 2.46 goals per game.

Still, Olimpia have to stay focused in order to win against the eighth-placed side. The experienced attacker José Ariel Nuñez is currently always good for a goal or an assist. In addition, some players are currently performing below expectations, such as Júnior Marabel, who is yet to find the net this season, but has 2.57 expected goals. With him, the first goal of the season would be overdue. Olimpia should have an advantage, however, also because 12 de Octubre played in the Copa Sudamericana on Tuesday, surprisingly beating Nacional on penalties. On the one hand, this brings self-confidence for the guests, bon the other hand, Pedro Sarabia’s team will still feel the 120 minutes in their bones.

Libertad faces Guaireña

2nd-placed Libertad faces their next tough task after the single-goal defeat to Olimpia. The home game against Guaireña is on the program and both teams will go into the 11th round with increased self-confidence. Although Guaireña lost 4-2 in the Copa Sudamericana against bottom of the table River Plate, they have been undefeated in the league for nine games, only losing in the opening round. The Gumarelo had great success in the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday: Colombian league leaders Atlético Nacional were put to the sword 1-0. The defender Cristian Báez, who has played a strong season so far, scored the only goal.

Against Guaireña, Libertad relies on the routine in their squad. Óscar Cardozo was brought on in the second half in the Copa Libertadores game. The 37-year-old should be rested and be able to start from the beginning against the visitors. Daniel Bocanegra will also play an important role again; the defensive midfielder is probably the most important stabilizer in the Argentine Daniel Garnero’s team right now and currently has an exceptional pass rate of 92% in the league.

So there will be several exciting duels between experienced players. Tacuara Cardozo will face central defenders Salustiano Candía (37) and Miguel Paniagua (33). While Jorge Mendoza (31) will also play a key role in Guaireña’s defensive midfield. But the Villarrican’s also have a youngster on whom all eyes are on; 20-year-old Fernando Romero has scored five goals in his last three league games and is currently in great shape. Romero only holds at 2.69 expected goals, which means that he is performing above expectation.

Cerro Porteño need to be cautious

The fourth in the table, Cerro Porteño, currently holds 19 points just like Olimpia, Libertad and Guaireña. After the next round it should be 22, but the game away at Sportivo Luqueño will not be easy. The Luque team recently played two away games, losing to Libertad and Guaireña. However, the auriazul are better known for their strength in home games. This season, Luis Escobar’s team even has better home stats than leaders Olimpia.

El Ciclón did not play convincingly recently and was often not compelling enough. The last game against Sol de América was won 1-0, although the hosts were seemingly on the back foot for almost the entire game. Robert Morales’ fifth goal of the season secured a lucky win. The graphs show that Sol de América could have left the pitch as winners on another day.

In general, some key players of Sportivo Luqueño are currently underperforming statistically. This is shown, for example, by the numbers of players like Guillermo Beltrán, Carlos González or Enrique “Zlatan” Borja, who have numerous scoring chances, but at the moment are missing too many. So far, the team has only scored nine goals in ten games, but they collected an average of ten shots per game – Cerro Porteño has almost the same value! So the favorite has to be careful not to slip against the hosts.

Intermedia 2021 teams and previews

The Intermedia is upon us with a bumper season having expanded to 18 teams as last year’s tournament was canceled meaning no promotion, but they receive the two relegated teams from Primera. There will be three direct promotion spots this year, while one playoff place to take on the 9th placed side in the top division. For the champion there is a lucrative spot available in the 2022 Copa Sudamericana, the first time the APF have offered a continental spot to sides outside of the top flight.

Throughout the week most of the clubs have been confirming their squads on social media which I’ve compiled here.

Sportivo Iteño based in the city Itá (the Guaraní word for stone) about 40 km from Asunción have been almost ever present in Intermedia, only missing out on one of the 23 seasons (in 2013 they were in Primera B). Their closest moment to reaching Primera was in 1998 when they finished runner-up losing the playoff final to Resistencia.

Resistencia SC are based in the Chacarita barrio in Asunción to the north of downtown that borders the Paraguay River, it is one of the most dangerous areas of the capital city with the stadium essentially inside a shantydown. Their stadium is famous for having a tree growing through one of the stands behind the goal.

Some good players recruited this season like Wildo Alonso, Nicolas Caballero (who resorted to setting up a fast food street stand to pay the bills during 2020), Christian Ledesma a league winner in Chile and the most interesting Julian Benítez who has 91 goals in Primera putting him 10th on the all-time list.

Fernando de la Mora gets is name from one of the key players in Paraguay’s independence and is also the name of a city right next to Asunción. The Emiliano Ghezzi stadium is technically in the capital city, prior to the pandemic it was well known for hosting rock concerts as well as football matches.

Current coach Hernán Acuña has a long association with the club and is well known for his work with young players in Paraguay, most notably he coached Miguel Almirón while managing Cerro Porteños youth sides.

Sportivo 2 de Mayo is based in the north-east of Paraguay right on the border with Brazil, in fact you can cross the main road to enter the neighbouring country. While it has a bad reputation as a hotbed of illicit activity the Río Parapití stadium was used for the 1999 Copa América and has a capacity for 25,000 one of the biggest stadiums outside of Greater Asunción.

In their squad they have incorporated Osmar Leguizamón who smashed 18 goals in 2016 with General Caballero in Primera. Their coach is Ariel Galeano who is just 23 years old.

Sportivo Trinidense are based in one of Asunción’s oldest areas and have been in Primera as recently as 2017, they are currently coached by Gabino Román who got River Plate promoted four years ago. They have a few decent players in the squad including Ernesto “Teto” Cristaldo an Olympic silver medallist in 2004, Wilson Pittoni who scored in the 2013 Copa Libertadores Final and Nery Cardozo a natural goalscorer who earned a move to Norway in his youth.

If you are in Asunción right now and want to watch regular football? You can get a season ticket at Trinidense for just 200,000 guaraníes ($32).

3 de Febrero or to give you their full name Atlético 3 de Febrero de Ciudad del Este who are arguably the biggest side outside of Asunción and surrounds. The giant in the East have never finished in the bottom half of Intermedia and have spent several season at the top. César Llamas is still there ready to run down the wing, a veritable Ryan Giggs having been at the club for 13 years, playing one game for the national team back in 2012.

Rubio Ñu has traditionally been a lower division side but they fought it out in Primera having won Intermeida in 2008 under Chiqui Arce and had a reputation for producing good young players. Their current coach is Alejandro Da Silva who sepnt a long time at Cerro Porteño as a player.

Ronald Huth, winner of the youth Premier League with Liverpool (2007-08), will play behind midfielder Derlis Mereles who was at Benfica B last year.

 Independiente de Campo Grande are based in what has become one of the most lucrative areas of Asunción, just off the principal road that runs from the airport through the CBD to the main artery that directs people to downtown. They have a history of producing good young players like Lorenzo Melgarejo and Sebastián Ferreira while helping Jordan Santacruz and Fidencio Oviedo develop.

They are coached by Pablo Caballero a much-loved and respected coach in the country, and boast some key veterans like goalkeeper Victor Centurión (champion with Olimpia, Guaraní and Deportivo Calí), Copa Libertadores finalist Derlis Orué and striker Ángel Orué who has won domestic titles with Libertad and Nacional.

Sportivo San Lorenzo were relegated from Primera last year, they are from one of the biggest cities in Paraguay located right next to the capital Asunción. Their sponsor Ochsi are based in the city a producer of sausages and hams, which explains the pig logo splashed on the front of their shirts!

Deportivo Santaní have been to the highs of the Copa Sudamericana despite only being formed in 2009, they are based in San Estanislao some 150 km from Asunción.

Their start player is the striker Wilson Levia nicknamed Leivandowski after winning the league with Libertad in 2016 and 2017, he was linked with a move to the Bundesliga with Schalke as recently as 2020.

Tacuary FBC were once a stalwart of Primera and even qualified for the Copa Libertadores, but after their then eccentric owner Francisco Ocampo left the club in 2014 they have struggled both financially and on the pitch.

In 2019 they played in Primera B, achieving promotion by grabbing the runners up spot in the division. This will be their first season in Intermedia since 2015.

General Díaz are one of the oldest clubs in Paraguayan football, founded in 1917 in the city of Luque. They were relegated last season amid serious financial problems with players going unpaid for months. Their new coach is 34-year-old Víctor Ferreira who was playing for the Aguilas just a couple of years ago, he is best known for winning the league with Cerro Porteño in 2006 and 2009.

Fulgencio Yegros de Ñemby are from the city to the south of Asunción probalby best known for being the home of the Coca-Cola factory in the country. The etymology of the city’s name Ñemby is disputed but I prefer the version that suggests it is dervied from Ñe’e he’emby which means “sweet language” in reference to Guaraní.

 Deportivo Capiatá were a mainstay in Primera since their promotion in 2012 but will have to rebuild this season having been relegated in 2020. They are from the “Mythical City” in relation to the Museo Mitológico that documents some traditional guaraní mythology related to Tau & Kerana and their seven children Ao Ao, Teyú Yaguá, Mbói Tu’i, Moñái, Yasý Yateré, Kurupí and Luisón.

Atyrá FC are from a town in the countryside that claims to be the cleanest city in the country, the pituresque place is up a hill about 60 km from Asunción and is certainly worth a visit.

This will be only their second season in the second division, having been promoted to the division in 2019.

General Caballero de Juan León Mallorquín are based in the far east of the country close to 3 de Febrero, like Atyrá this is just their second season having come up in 2019.

Not much to add here, they don’t have any social media that I could find!

Sportivo Ameliano are based in one of the more affluent suburbs of Asunción, the stadium backs onto some very nice houses where the ball sometimes gets lost with an errant clearance. For the Dundee fans reading this my only visits to Ameliano was when Fabio Caballero (number 7 came down from heaven) was either playing or managing the side.

This will be their first season in Intermedia since the league’s restructuring in 1997 having knocked around the 3rd and 4th tier. They have picked up a very astute manger in Humberto Garcia who guided General Díaz to the Copa Sudamericana.

Guaraní de Trinidad are making their debut in the Intermeida having been crowned champion of the UFI (Rural Federation) Nacional B back in 2019. They are based in Trinidad, Itapuá in the south of the country very close to Encarnación, the tiny city is most famous for a UNESCO heritage site related to Jesuit ruins.