By NESTOR F. SEBASTIAN
With this year's edition of the Copa Libertadores giving Mexico's Chivas and San Luis byes into the Round of 16 because of the swine flu debacle last year, only six of the top second-placed teams from the eight groups will move on.
That's why the matches will only intensify further as the group stages conclude in the next couple of weeks as several of the groups are still far from done with about two rounds left for some teams. This week, Chile's Colo Colo need a win in Venezuela if they want to see their dimming hopes revive while both of Peru's Alianza Lima and Universitario will be one step closed to advancing as will Uruguay's Nacional. The match of the week will be at the Maracana when Brazil's Flamengo hosts Universidad de Chile in a top of the table clash while Colombia's DIM hope a win sparks a miracle run into the next round.
Here are this week's matches:
DEPORTIVO ITALIA v. COLO COLO, 7:15PM ET
With two matches left for them, Colo Colo have no other choices but to attack and attack more, given that they are still six points adrift of Group 7 co-leaders Velez Sarsfield of Argentina and Brazil's Cruzeiro. The Chileans are in Venezuela to see if they can feast on eliminated Deportivo Italia, a result that will give them a glimmer of hope going into their last match next week against Cruzeiro. But they'll have to do it without midfielder Esteban Paredes who sustained a knee injury on international duty last week.
UNIVERSITARIO DE DEPORTES v. BLOOMING, 9:30PM ET
It's all set up for the Peruvian champions to possibly clinch a top-two spot or be close to it at least in a Group 4 clash tonight. La U hosts one of the worst teams in the tournament, Bolivia's Blooming, giving them a chance to leapfrog group leaders Libertad of Paraguay, which sit atop with nine points while La U is second with eight and Argentina's Lanus is third with seven. The Peruvians are coming off of a goalless draw against rivals and fellow Libertadores participants Alianza Lima in a derby over the weekend.
DEPORTIVO CUENCA v. NACIONAL, 6:30PM ET
Nacional, semifinalists in the 2009 Libertadores, are in a slight slump at home, falling to two straight losses in the Uruguayan Clausura although their latest setback was suffered at the hands of some second-stringers. The Uruguayans travel to the skies of Cuenca, Ecuador and will look to cement a spot in the next round with a win. Nacional currently is top of Group 6 along with Argentina's Banfield, both with eight points apiece, followed by Mexico's Morelia with five and Cuenca with three.
FLAMENGO v. UNIVERSIDAD DE CHILE, 8:50PM ET
The match of the week is between the two top sides of Group 8. Brazil's Flamengo, with six points, welcomes leaders U de Chile, seven points, at the famed Maracana. Their last meeting in Santiago, Chile went to La U with a 2-1 decision. La U leads their country's league table after a 4-3 win over Union Espanola on Saturday. Goalkeeper and captain Miguel Pinto has recovered from injury but will be on the bench. For Flamengo, Adriano is doubtful with some back pain and will most likely be replaced by Bruno Mezenga, who will partner up with Vagner Love.
INDEPENDIENTE MEDELLIN v. CERRO PORTENO, 7:15PM ET
With a couple of games left, Colombia's Medellin sit in third on three points behind Uruguay's Racing, seven points, and Brazil's Corinthians, 10 points. The Colombians, with three draws in the tournament, need nothing short of a miracle to overcome the top two teams and that starts with a win at home against an eliminated Cerro Porteno of Paraguay.
ALIANZA LIMA v. BOLIVAR, 9:30PM ET
The Peruvians will look to shake off their recent dip in form by taking three points at home against an eliminated Bolivar that will see them closed to qualification into the next phase. If they can restore the showing they displayed in their first three victories, outscoring their opponents 9-2, the blanquiazules could give the continental giants a run for their money.
What do you think of this week's matches? Any particular matches to look forward to? Share your thoughts below.