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

This is the second day of great Latin football, what will this day bring?

River Plate (Argentina) v Racing Club (Argentina)
First leg score:
When? Thursday, 0030
Where? El Monumental, Buenos Aires

The Argentine Clasico finished in a goalless draw three weeks ago, but just like the Santos-Independiente match, in this one there is also an issue with a suspended player. It seems that River’s Bruno Zuculini wasn’t eligible to play due to his suspension from 5 years ago when he played with Racing vs. Lanus in the Copa Sudamericana. However, it wasn’t River’s fault, after it turned out that they actually checked with the CONMEBOL before the match if they have any suspended players and Zuculini’s name didn’t appear on the list. Therefore the CONMEBOL already announced that the result will remain as it was despite Racing’s demand for a win.

As for the game, it seems that River has some serious attacking problems. The team finished its last four games in a goalless draw and while the defensive part is playing well and the goalkeeper Armani is breaking every possible record, it’s the offensive part who simply cannot score. And against a stubborn team like Racing, River must score if they want to qualify. But now River also have another serious problem - the fitness problem. Besides Zuculini, who won’t play due to his suspension, and Leonardo Ponzio who was sent off in the first leg, River won’t be able to field ‘Pity’ Martinez who left Saturday's game because of an injury and most probably won’t play against Racing. Additional injured players are Scocco, Mayada and Mora who won’t play according to the recent rumours. Can Armani, Juanfer Quintero and Pratto do the job?

On the other hand, Racing will come to the Monumental stadium in order to finally end Armani’s jinx. In their last three matches, Racing couldn’t score against him and not only that, he was always River’s best player on the pitch. He actually became Eduardo Coudet’s nightmare. But at this moment, Racing seems to be in better form than River and they already are in first place in the league while River still looking for their first victory. Without their main key player, Lautaro Martinez, who was sold to Inter, but with other great players such as Licha Lopez, Ricky Centurion and Gustavo Bou, Racing can surely sting River in a counter attack and complicate the ‘millionaire’.

Cruzeiro (Brazil) v Flamengo (Brazil)
First leg score: 2:0
When? Thursday, 0245
Where? Mineirão, Belo Horizonte

There was only one team in the first leg of this Brazilian Clasico and it was Cruzeiro. To be honest, it seemed to be too easy despite the fact that until the match, Flamengo was in a good form, leading the Brazilian league. However, Cruzeiro showed their potential in this match as their superior squad and won the match 2-0 at the Maracana stadium. With a two-goal lead and playing in front of their home crowd, it's almost unlikely to see Cruzeiro fail to qualify. Even though their current form in the league is not the best, the Copa is a different story and their main goal is to win the title for the third time, their first since 1997. Despite their advantage, coach Menezes will play with his strongest starting lineup to avoid any kind of surprise.

Flamengo was much more optimistic before the first leg. They reached the Copa Sudamericana final last year, managed to qualify to this stage from a complicated group, their general performance in the league is very good and they have a good squad. But after a 2-0 defeat at home, it seems like an impossible mission for the 'Rubro-negro'. No one will give up before the match, but it's going to be very tough and Flamengo knows that in order to keep their slim chance, they must score at least one goal in the first half. Coach Barbieri may continue with the same lineup which started three weeks ago, and probably will order his players to attack from the first minute, they don't have other options. If Flamengo will manage to score quickly, it's going to be very interesting match.

Corinthians (Brazil) v Colo Colo (Chile)
First leg score: 2:0
When? Thursday, 0245
Where? Arena Corinthians, São Paulo

Corinthians, the favourite in this series, suffered from a 1-0 defeat in Santiago. Actually, they were lucky not to lose by a larger gap since their goalkeeper, Cassio, was chosen for the man of the match and kept the Brazilians alive for the 2nd leg which will take place in Corinthians Arena. The bad news for the ‘Timão’ is the fact that the same Cassio is in doubt for the game due to an injury which he has suffered in the game vs. Parana. He was injured in his hip until he had to leave the match in the 38th minute. If he wouldn't be able to play it’ll be a huge loss for Corinthians. Midfielder Gabriel won’t be able to play due to the red card he received in Santiago. Corinthians will try to attack from the first minute but will have to be careful from the Chilean counter attacks which may cause them to concede an away goal.

Colo Colo is in a great form. After beating Corinthians in a match where they were superior, they also won vs Universidad de Chile in the major Chilean Clasico and will travel to Brazil in order to surprise the continent. They returned to the round of 16 after an 11-year absence and now they don’t want to stop at this stage. Coach Hector Tapia has his full squad available and he may start with the same lineup but surely will take a more defensive approach. Colo Colo has also the away goal advantage since they didn’t concede at home and every goal that they will score in Brazil complicates the local team. The motivation of the Chileans is extremely high after hearing that Timão’s striker, Jonathas de Jesus, is confident in his team saying that Corinthians will pass through Colo Colo without a problem. The referee will be Argentine Nestor Pitana, the one who was in charge of the FIFA World Cup final last month.

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