Eight teams remain as we reach the business end of this year’s Copa Libertadores. Brazil continue to fly the flag with five teams still standing, whilst Argentina’s River Plate, Ecuador’s Barcelona and Paraguay’s Olimpia will all be looking to upset the odds.
At least one Brazilian team will be eliminated, however, as Hernan Crespo’s Sao Paulo will play reigning champions Palmeiras on Wednesday.
Current favourites, Flamengo, head to Paraguay on Wednesday evening and that is where we shall start with this week.
Favourites to concede again
Olimpia v Flamengo
Live on Betfair
I must admit, the fact Olimpia have made it this far has surprised not only me, but the vast majority of South America. Having opened their Copa Libertadores campaign with a 3-2 defeat to Venezuela’s Deportivo Tachira back in April, it looked as though their tournament was going to be a short one.
This was probably reinforced when Olimpia were truly embarrassed by Brazil’s Internacional 6-1 but two wins over Bolivian outfit Always Ready before a 6-2 redemption over Tachira earnt the Paraguayan side a rematch against Internacional in the round of 16.
Two 0-0s, as well as 30 minutes of extra time couldn’t separate the two sides and it was surprise package Olimpia who held their nerve against the Brazilian giants in an enthralling penalty shootout.
It’s worth noting the stats from the second leg in Brazil. 17 shots, one goal ruled out, one attempt crashed off the post and Edenilson missed a penalty inside the 90 minutes. Internacional carved through Olimpia time and time again but they failed to punish the Paraguayan side.
Olimpia’s success puts them in uncharted territory in the form of a quarter-final match against Flamengo. However, this will be a mountain to climb, and despite riding Internacional’s storm, Flamengo’s will be far more testing. Olimpia will have to strike on home soil if they are to achieve any more success in this competition – defeating Flamengo away from home in the second leg looks to be an impossible task.
Flamengo eventually breezed past Defensa y Justicia in their round of 16 tie. A deflected goal saw them escape from Argentina with a 1-0 lead, before a dominant 4-1 victory in front of their home fans only emphasised why they are the favourites to lift the trophy.
What has been a noticeable trend with the Brazilians is their inability to keep a clean sheet.
They’ve conceded in six of their eight matches to date, with their only clean sheets coming against Velez Sarsfield once both sides had already qualified and when beating Defensa y Justicia 1-0, despite being battered all match – and Defensa were denied a stonewall penalty.
Olimpia have gone from strength to strength in this competition and although they are likely to be outplayed in Brazil, this is their chance on Wednesday. The home side are 1.728/11 to score and I can’t let that go unbacked due to Flamengo’s defensive record.
Cagey affair expected
Fluminense v Barcelona
Live on Betfair
Fluminense’s early penalty against Cerro Porteno in the second leg last week killed off the tie and as predicted in my column, they were able to progress to the quarter-finals.
However, on paper it looks as though they’ve progressed well in the tournament to date – but I believe they aren’t as good as they are being made out to be.
Focusing on their home matches in the Copa Libertadores, they’ve won two, drawn one and lost one. The Brazilians held River Plate to a 1-1 draw with their opening group game, before securing all three points with a 2-1 victory over Colombia’s Santa Fe.
The first half against Santa Fe was incredibly dull. Fluminense created nothing going forward and it was the away side which took the initiative in the 58th minute. Two second half goals rescued all three points but they were not deserved, that’s for sure. Let me also remind you that Santa Fe lost to River Plate’s depleted side when they had Perez, a midfielder, in between the sticks.
Fellow Colombian side, Junior, were able to punish Fluminense with a 2-1 defeat in Brazil, another game where the home side struggled to show any kind of dominance.
Their opponents on Friday morning, Barcelona, have only won one of their away matches in the Copa Libertadores this campaign, although a closer inspection on their matches indicates they have been rather unfortunate on their travels.
A 2-0 victory over last year’s finalists, Santos, certainly caught the eye. They were unable to build on that when suffering a 2-0 defeat to the hands of Bolivia’s The Strongest, although their incredibly high altitude makes playing in La Paz almost unbearable and a line can be put through that result.
Barcelona were then able to hold Boca Juniors to a 0-0 draw at La Bombonera, putting in one of the finest defensive displays in the tournament so far.
The Ecuadorian side lost their away leg to Velez Sarsfield in the round of 16 1-0 before turning the tie around back on home soil, but that result was certainly no disgrace.
Velez Sarsfield won two out of their three home matches in the tournament this year, only losing 3-2 against Flamengo in the final ten minutes.
Turning my attention back to Friday’s encounter between Fluminense v Barcelona, the game provides the perfect platform to utilise the Bet Builder option to full effect.
Under 2.5 goals and both teams to score “no” is 1.804/5 which is worth a one point stake, considering this has landed in every game Barcelona have played away from home in this year’s tournament.
I’m expecting a resolute performance from the away side, who will look to still be in the tie when they return home next week for the second leg.