By NESTOR F. SEBASTIAN
While European soccer fans bask in UEFA Champions League play and North and Central American supporters await their own Champions League tilts later tonight, we should not forget the Copa Libertadores tournament that continues with group stage action tonight.
Caracas FC of Venezuela kicks off tonight’s quadruple slate of matches at home against Argentine side Lanus. Former Red Bulls defender Gabriel Cichero and company will look to bounce back from their 1-0 loss to Chile’s Everton last week in their debut in the South American tournament. Caracas has done well at their home grounds against Argentine squads in the past two editions. Last year, Los Rojos topped San Lorenzo2-0 and in 2007, eliminated River Plate 3-1.
Lanus, coming off a 1-0 victory in the Argentine Torneo Clausura against Boca Juniors over the weekend, opened their Libertadores campaign with a 1-1 tie against Chivas Guadalajara last week, needing an injury-time goal by Jose Sand in a contest somewhat dominated by the visiting Mexicans.
Deportivo Quito of Ecuador, in the midst of a battle over unpaid wages and threatening to strike, host Brazil’s Cruzeiro. The Ecuadorean side may not have captain Luis Fernando Saritama and netminder Giovanny Ibarra because of injuries. DeportivoQuito, which fell 1-0 to Manta over the weekend in Ecuadorean league action, may not play their match against LDU Quito in Saturday’s match if they aren’t paid by then. The team is owed wages stemming back from last year. Cruzeiro demolished Estudiantes at home last week by a 3-0 scoreline to kick off their Libertadores matches.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s Gremio, two-time Libertadores champs, will make their debut hosting Chile’s Universidad de Chile. The Brazilians’ manager Celso Roth has already indicated that he is prioritizing this tournament ahead of the Campeonoato Gaucho semifinals against Veranopolis, which takes place Friday, and will field his strongest lineup. La U, who may be without Sebastian Pardo and Marco Estrada for their first 2009 Libertadores match, topped Union Espanola 1-0 in the Torneo Apertura over the weekend.
The last match tonight has Chivas hosting Everton. Chivas is coming off of a 1-1 tie against Monarcas Morelia and are keen to keep their fans tranquil after mixed results in the Mexican championship. Everton overcame a 2-0 deficit to top Rangers 3-2 in the Chilean tournament after their debut Libertadores win against Caracas last week.
The matches will be broadcast on Fox Sports En Espanol (except for Dep. Quito-Gremio)
Caracas vs. Lanus(5pm)
Gremio vs. Universidad de Chile(7:30pm)
Chivas vs. Everton(10pm)
What do you think of the Copa Libertadores? Will you be watching tonight's matches? Which team do you see as the tournament favorite?
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