This week all three Parguay sides are in Copa Libertadores action with all three teams expecting nothing less than a win. Nacional and Libertad play in Asunción against Cruz Azul and Alianza Lima respectively while Olimpia have a tricky trip to Guayaquil, Ecuador where they confront President Rafael Correa’s favourite team, Emelec. Here we preview the three games and throw in some facts and stats for good measure.
Nacional vs Cruz Azul
Estadio Nicolas Leoz
08/02/2012, 18.45 (21.45 GMT)
Nacional embark on their sixth Copa Libertadores campaign and are yet to progress past the group stages, this year will be tough with Brazilian champions Corinthians and a very strong Cruz Azul side the favourites to advance. Home advantage is alwaysw key but remember Nacional’s ground is too small (4.000 capacity) to host continental games and with the Defensores going through a medieval style relaying of the pitch the best option available is Libertad’s Nicolas Leoz where they will play all three local games.
The team will be set up as hard to beat with veteran defender Denis Caniza (37) epitomising this rugged and battling side. There is plenty of quality on the ball, Silvio Torales will keep things ticking in midfield with his companion Derlis Orué hoping to link up with the attack. The goals are most likely to come from Brazilian Rodrigo Teixeira, the 32-year-old forward netted both Nacional’s goals in their last international meeting, a 5-2 defeat to Aurora at altitude.
Nacional vs Mexican teams
Pld 2 W 1 D 0 L 1 GF 3 GA 2 – Nacional beat Monterrey 2-0 at home, while losing 2-1 away
One to Watch: Silvio Torales – 20-yr-old central midfielder with excellent passing range and vision
Prediction: Although the Mexicans are the better side the long journey for Cruz Azul coupled with Nacional’s dogged spirit and Torrente’s cunning should be a leveller, 1-1 draw
Selected Odds: Nacional win 2.48 – Draw 3.3 – Cruz Azul win 3.25; 1-1 draw 7.2; Both teams to score 1.9
Libertad vs Alianza Lima
Estadio Nicolas Leoz
09/02/2012, 21.15 (00.45 GMT)
Libertad made light work of El Nacional of Ecuador in the last round and now face an Alianza Lima still smarting from the huge loss of Paraguay Abroad striker Roberto ‘Bufalo’ Ovelar who has headed south to Chile. Over the weekend the Repolleros played a ‘mix’ team allowing key players to rest up for tomorrow’s fixture. Libertad have also received a huge boost in the form of Topo Caceres and his frustrated move to China – the midfielder is the master of controlling the tempo in international games and will be of massive importance.
Libertad’s have real class going forward, on both flanks Paraguayan internationals Nestor Camacho (left) and Rodolfo Gamarra (right) will supply fodder to big men Pablo Velazquez and Crisitian Menendez or the slippery striker Ariel Nuñez who was fantastic in the last home game. Burruchaga has been rather cavalier in the Copa and don’t be surprised to see them take an early lead as they try to shock and awe the Peruvians with their pace from the onset.
Libertad vs Peruvian sides (since 2000)
Pld 6 W 3 D 2 L 1 GF 10 GA 5 – never Alianza Lima
One to Watch: Right winger Rodolfo Gamarra was crucial in Libertad’s last game, dangerous crossing and good shot from distance
Prediction: Libertad found it all to easy against El Nacional at home and I see this being a similarly comfortable run out for the Gumarelo, 3-0
Selected Odds: Libertad win 1.4 – Draw 4.9 – Alianza Lima win 11.0; 3-0 home win 9.8; Over 2.5 goals 2.06
Emelec vs Olimpia
Estadio George Capwell
09/02/2012, 21.15 (00.45 GMT)
These teams met in last year’s Copa Sudamericana with Olimpia getting the better of them both home and away. Arguably the group are even stronger now, confidence boosted by their first title in 11 years and an excellent pre-season campaign. The club have great pedigree in the tournament, this is their 36th appearance and 261st match (only four clubs have played more, one of which is archrivals Cerro Porteño) but the last time they were present was way back in 2004.
Main striker Pablo Zeballos has travelled to Guayaquil but he is struggling with injury, expect Pelusso to line up with three at the back which he has employed since pre-season. It gives Olimpia great width and makes them more attacking but there will be incredible pressure on the young shoulders of Fabian Caballero. The teenage holding midfielder plays alongside multiple Copa Libertadores winner Sergio Orteman and with the veteran no longer possessing the pace of years gone by it means Caballero will have a lot of covering to do.
Olimpia vs Ecuadorian sides (since 2000)
Pld 4 W 1 D 3 L 0 GF 5 GA 4 – includes two draws with Emelec (2001)
One to Watch: Luis Caballero scored a double at the weekend and will be the away sides spearhead in attack, his physical presence could cause Emelec problems at the back
Prediction: Olimpia took the game to Emelec in their Copa Sudamericana meeting last year and were too much for them in the first 30 mins, expect the same again another 2-1 win for El Decano
Selected Odds: Emelec win 2.58 – Draw 3.3 – Olimpia win 3.15.; 1-2 away win 11.5; Over 2.5 goals 2.22
By Ralph Hannah
Authors note: All odds were correct at time of writing, for the most up to date odds check Betfair where these odds were taken from