By NESTOR F. SEBASTIAN
Four groups down, four to go. Copa Libertadores finally wraps up its group-stage matches this week as 12 teams battle for the seven remaining spots available in the Round of 16, with defending champions Internacional of Brazil looking for a win at home against a tough Ecuadorean side, Emelec, while Mexico's America just needs a draw in Uruguay against Nacional.
America won't be the only Mexican side fighting for classification. Both Jaguares and San Luis have a chance to advance, which conceivably gives Mexico a chace to have all three of its representatives into the knockout phase. Bolivia and Venezuela saw its teams all crash out while Peru has one team looking to continue. Ecuador, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Uruguay will have at least one team in the next round with Brazil and Argentina have multiple sides in.
Brazil's Cruzeiro locked up the top seed last week and Colombia's Atletico Junior has dibs on second place at the moment although Internacional or Paraguay's Libertad could overtake the Colombians should either win their match tonight. Regardless, several scenarios are still up in the air and the intensity of the matches will be seen as the group phase concludes after more than 100 matches and over 264 goals scored.
Below is a quick synopsis of each match this week (most of which will be broadcast on FSE):
Internacional (Brazil) v Emelec (Ecuador)
The Brazilians are top of Group 6 with 10 points and could even advance with a draw but seek to make a statement at home with a newly-named manager against Emelec, who sit on eight points. The Ecuadoreans, fresh from reaching the summit of its domestic league this past weekend, will also be looking to impress new personnel, its new president.
Jorge Wilstermann (Bolivia) v Jaguares (Mexico)
The Mexicans, with nine points, are banking on Inter to grab a result at home against Emelec, which is whey they're sending reserves to Bolivia.
Libertad (Paraguay) v San Luis (Mexico)
The Paraguayans have 11 points and are assured of winning Group 1 but its manager has admitted to his side being exhausted after 14 matches in six weeks. The Mexicans, with five points, fought their way back into contention in the latter half of the group-stage campaign but will be missing key figures because of injuries.
San Martin (Peru) v Once Caldas (Colombia)
The Peruvians, with six points, and the Colombians, with four points, both are languishing in their respective domestic leagues but both have a chance to move on in the continent's competition. However, the Round of 16 looks likely to be either side's last stop for whoever advances.
Colo Colo (Chile) v Cerro Porteno (Paraguay)
The Chileans, with nine points to lead Group 5, have a bit of revenge on their minds after a 5-2 drubbing at the hands of Cerro in Paraguay in the group opener. The Paraguayans, with eight points, have the tournament's lead scorer in Argentine Roberto Nanni, who has seven goals.
Santos (Brazil) v Deportivo Tachira (Venezuela)
Neymar and company started out slow but have clawed their way back to fight for a Round of 16 ticket. The Brazilians, with eight points, host a depleted Venezuelan side.
Argentinos Juniors (Argentina) v Fluminense (Brazil)
The Argentines, which have seven points in Group 3, are making some changes to its lineup in hopes of bringing in some new mechanics to their game, not to mention a win too, as they host the Brazilians, which sit on five points. Flu will be missing Deco and Carlinhos through injuries and are trying hard not to look ahead to its weekend Copa Rio semifinal clash against archrivals Flamengo.
Nacional (Uruguay) v America (Mexico)
The Mexicans lead the group of death with nine points but will look to confirm their standing in Uruguay. Meanwhile, Nacional is waiting to confirm if young striker Santiago Garcia has fully recuperated from injury in order to be named to the first 11.
Looking forward to the knockout round? Who looks to be favorite at the moment? Share your thoughts below.