Libertadores Preview: Round of 16, Leg 2 (Part 1)

The 2018 Copa Libertadores round of 16 second leg matches will be underway Tuesday night (CET time) and by the end of the week, we will know what to expect in the quarter-finals.

Santos (Brazil) v Independiente (Argentina)
First leg: 0-3
When? Wednesday, 0030
Where? Estadio Vila Belmiro, Santos

A week ago it was all Independiente who were much better than their rival, yet they failed to score and the game ended in a goalless draw. A good result for the Brazilians? Yes, but then something happened. It appeared that Uruguayan midfielder, Carlos Sanchez, played for Santos even though he wasn’t allowed to. The reason? He still had to complete a one-match ban due to his suspension from 2015 when he played for River Plate. On the other hand, it wasn’t totally Santos’s fault since the Brazilian team used the CONMEBOL's new service to check for suspended players. However, this database is only updated to 2016 and onwards. Undoubtedly, this is the CONMEBOL at its best. In the morning of the match, CONMEBOL awarded Independiente a 3:0 win.

Independiente surprisingly lost at home to Defensa y Justicia 1-0 in the Argentine league and coach Ariel Holan will probably make several changes, also depending on the Confederation decision. From Independiente's point of view, it seems absurd not knowing to what result you should prepare your players for, but it’s South America and this is one of the reasons we also love it.

Santos' coach, Cuca, will also decide his best eleven according to the CONMEBOL decision. If the result will be 3-0 to Independiente, he'll most probably go for an ultra-offensive formation, but if the result will remain 0-0 he will play more cautiously and will hope to achieve the winning goal at home. In any case, Carlos Sanchez won’t be eligible to play since he still has to complete his suspension and so does left back Dodo, who was sent off in the first leg.

Atletico Nacional (Colombia) v Atletico Tucuman (Argentina)
First leg: 0-2
When? Wednesday, 0245
Where? Estadio Atanasio Girardot, Medellin

It should have been probably the easiest task for Atletico Nacional, as they are the Copa Libertadores holders from two years ago, for those who forgot. But the World Cup break wasn’t helpful for the Colombian side who didn’t start their semester very well. They lost in Tucuman 0-2 not because their rival was very good, but mostly because of huge mistakes by their goalkeeper, Fernando Monetti, and the weak form of several key players. Since this match, Nacional improved a bit and won their last four matches in domestic competitions, but they will have to work very hard in order to pass the stubborn Argentine team. With Dayro Moreno in great form and their last reinforcement, Omar Duarte, Nacional believe that they can turn things around in front of their home crowd.

Atletico Tucuman didn’t think that it’ll be too easy in the first leg but it was, and the Argentine team will have a two-goal advantage over the Colombians. It’s not a done deal, but if Tucuman can manage not to concede in the first 45 minutes, it’ll be very hard for Nacional. Tucuman won their last match vs. Colon before travelling to Colombia and it surely gives them a boost to go to Medellin and to make history. Coach Ricardo Zielinski may continue with the same lineup which started in the first match but will surely use a more defensive approach.

Gremio (Brazil) v Estudiantes (Argentina)
First leg: 1-2
When? Wednesday, 0245
Where? Arena do Gremio, Porto Alegre

The current Copa Libertadores holders lost to Estudiantes in their first leg but everything is still open for them in the second leg, which will take place in Porto Alegre. Add the fact that Gremio has the away goals advantage and will play in front of their crowd and you can see why they are favourites to advance. Gremio lost their last league game and their form is inconsistent, yet they have a great team. As for the formation, it should be similar to the one which lost in Argentina, as everyone should be fit and ready to play in order to achieve the minimum 1-0 victory to qualify for the quarter finals.

On the other hand, Estudiantes are very happy with their first leg victory, a match where they weren’t the better team but managed to win, although Gremio’s goal complicated the situation for them. Estudiantes also lost their last league match, but they also played with many second string players in order to keep the regular starters fresh for the match vs. ‘Las Pincharatas’. The only player who surely would not play is midfielder Fernando Zuqui, after being sent off. Gremio is a very strong team at home and coach Leandro Benitez knows it so you can expect a defensive approach from the Argentines, which will be based on counter attacks in order to steal an away goal.

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