By NESTOR F. SEBASTIAN
The final week of Copa Liberatores group-stage action is upon us and with 11 teams vying for the six remaining spots, there are still some chapters to be concluded for these squads who are also carrying the burden of representing a nation as well.
Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Chile have teams fighting for the remaining slots avilable into the Round of 16. Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay have one representative each into the next phase while Brazil has four teams through and could potentially have all five, pending this week's results. Argentina looks like it will have at least two teams qualify with three of its teams eliminated.
Here's a preview of the final week of group-stage matches:
Brazil's Gremio is through to the next round. The second-place spot is up for grabs between Colombia's Chico (9 pts) and Chile's Universidad de Chile (7 pts) with Bolivia's Aurora out of contention.
Chico travels to Gremio, who probably will send out reserves for the match. In any case, Chico needs at least a tie and could advance unless U. de Chile romps Aurora in Bolivia. A win for Chico would secure passage.
Paraguay's Libertad is already qualified and hosts Mexico's San Luis (5 pts), who are still mathematically alive. But Peru's Universitario de Deportes (8 pts) can kill off the Mexicans' slim chances with at least a tie in Argentina against an already-eliminated San Lorenzo.
Venezuela's Caracas (9 pts) are qualified and can clinch as leaders if it wins in Argentina against eliminated Lanus. The other match in the group has Mexico's Chivas (8 pts) in Chile to face Everton (7 pts).
Chivas demolished Everton earlier this campaign so the Chileans will have other matters to think about aside from advancement.
With both teams at seven points, Chile's Colo Colo hosts Brazil's Palmeiras in a do-or-die showdown. Colo Colo has a better goal difference and a tie would see them through.
Group leaders Sport Recife (10 pts), already qualified, can seal their top spot if they win or tie in Ecuador against defending champs, Liga de Quito, who are eliminated.
Three teams are contending for two spots. Boca Juniors (12 pts) are top of the group and host Venezuela's Tachira (9 pts) while Ecuador's Cuenca (9 pts) travel to Paraguay to face an eliminated Guarani.
Cuenca and Boca are tied on goal difference so first place is up for grabs between the two. Tachira needs Cuenca to lose and the Venezuelans have to at least tie in La Bombonera in order to advance.
Have you been following this tournament? What do you think about this week's matches? Are you ready for the Round of 16? Was the group-stage phase too long or was it just right?