As ever three Paraguayan sides will represent the country in Latin America’s premiere tournament. Nacional and Olimpia qualified automatically to the group stages having won the 2011 Apertura and Clausura respectively. In contrast Libertad, qualifying by virtue of accumulating most points in 2011, have a tricky qualifying tie to overcome in Quito. Tomorrow they play Ecuador’s El Nacional with the return leg in Asunción scheduled one week later.
Libertad will be favourites to progress as they embark on their 13th Libertadores campaign, however playing at altitude is always difficult especially when it is the first game of the season. Expect the first leg to be tight as Jorge Burruchaga sticks with the defensive mindset in away games that functioned well in last year’s Copa Sudamericana as they progressed to the quarter-finals. It was another Ecuadorian side, LDU Quito, who knocked them out on penalties in that competition and El Nacional do have a proud history in the Libertadores, playing 141 games and scoring 200 goals.
Libertad warmed up in average fashion last week with two friendlies in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo against domestic rivals Olimpia and local side Peñarol, losing 1-0 and drawing 2-2. They have brought in quality to their already bulging squad with the addition of goalkeeper Rogerio Muñoz, Jonathan Santana, Marcos Melgarejo and Nestor Camacho. The left-sided midfielder has recently featured in Chiqui Arce’s squads and has excellent close control and pace, he is likely to rotate with ex-Ipswich man, Luciano Civelli, one of the league’s best imports last season.
Check back with Paraguay Football after the game for a match report on 25th January. Read on for stats and the possible starting XI.
HEAD TO HEAD
Libertad vs El Nacional (Since 2000)
Libertad Wins 2
Nacional Wins 0
Libertad vs Ecuadorian sides in Copa Libertadores (Since 2000)
Libertad Wins 4
Ecuador side Wins 1
2003 Group Stage (Libertad 2-2 Emelec, Emelec 1-5 Libertad)
2007 Group stage (Libertad 1-0 Nacional, Nacional 1-1 Libertad)
2006 Group Stage (Libertad 4-1 Nacional, Nacional 1-1 Libertad)
2008 Group Stage (Libertad 3-1 LDU Quito, LDU Quito 2-0 Libertad)
LIBERTAD XI (possible) 4-4-2
Rogerio Muñoz; Carlos Bonet, Ismael Benegas, Ignacio Canuto, Miguel Samudio; Victor Ayala, Victor Caceres, Nestor Camacho, Luciano Civelli; Pablo Velazquez & Cristian Menendez
By Ralph Hannah