By NESTOR F. SEBASTIAN
With last week's full menu of 13 games kicking off Copa Libertadores' group phase, the tournament continues this week with a light schedule as six matches have the three remaining Argentine representatives facing tricky away ties, two of Chile's top sides making their debuts and two Venezuelan squads starting off their campaigns on the road.
Colon and Newell's Old Boys, both from Argentina, were bounced from the competition by Chile's Universidad Catolica and Ecuador's Emelec, respectively, in last week's second-leg preliminary stage matches that determined the final two tickets in the current group pool.
Meanwhile, defending champions Estudiantes de la Plata romped Peru's Juan Aurich in their debut at home while four teams snatched impressive away wins, most notably Peru's Alianza Lima, which took a 3-1 victoy versus Bolivar in La Paz, Bolivia. Mexican representatives Monterrey and Morelia opened their Libertadores seasons with losses to Sao Paulo and Banfield, respectively.
Here's a preview of this week's matches, which will be shown on Fox Sports en Espanol:
COLO COLO v. DEPORTIVO ITALIA, 5PM
Chilean champs Colo Colo have striker Esteban Paredes, who's hoping to put on a show this year in an effort to get a nod from national team manager Marcelo Bielsa although Paredes is still considered an alternative. Colombian midfielder Macnally Torres will orchestrate the Chileans' attack and Uruguayan defender Andres Scotti is back from injury for this Group 7 clash. Current Venezuelan leaders Italia have Richard Blanco and Cristian Casseres up top as well as veteran Bolivian goalkeeper Jose Carlo "The Cat" Fernandez, who's plied his trade in Chile previously.
LIBERTAD v. BLOOMING, 7:30PM
Paraguay's Libertad stole three points in Argentina against Lanus last week and has a strong chance to grab another three at home against Bolivia's Blooming, who suffered a 2-1 home loss to Peru's Universitario on Thursday. Libertad's Rodolfo Gamarra and Pedro Velezquez, both of whom scored in Argentina last week, will look to continue their effectiveness to give their side a comfortable position in Group 4.
DEPORTIVO CUENCA v. BANFIELD, 7:15PM
In Group 6, Cuenca put on a courageous display in Uruguay, falling 3-2 to Nacional last week, continuing Ecuador's rise in club status throughout the continent. Cuenca welcomes Argentina's Banfield, who topped Mexico's Morelia last week and shut out Lanus in the southern Clasico in Clausura league action over the weekend.
UNIVERSITARIO DE DEPORTES v. LANUS, 9:30PM
In Group 4, Peruvian champions Universitario host a wounded Lanus side, who had had a disastrous month so far, suffering three straight losses in the Argentine Clausura as well as a 2-0 home loss to Paraguay's Libertad last week in Libertadores action. The Peruvians made their debut in their country's Descentralizado league with a B team over the weekend and lost.
UNIVERSIDAD DE CHILE v. CARACAS, 5:15PM
U. de Chile will need to reinforce their defensive assignments for its home tilt against Venezuela's Caracas in Group 8 action. The U. surrendered two goals in the final 20 minutes against Santiago Wanderers in a 3-3 draw in the Chilean Apertura, with two of Caracas' scouts in attendance. Even worse, U.'s captain and goalkeeper Miguel Pinto sustained a knee injury in that match and will be out for at least four weeks. Meanwhile, Caracas' defenders and brothers Alejandro and Gabriel Cichero are trying to shake off injuries as is exciting youngster Fernando Ariteguieta.
ALIANZA LIMA v. ESTUDIANTES DE LA PLATA
Juan Sebastian Veron and Estudiantes romped Peru's Juan Aurich 5-1 at home last week, behind in-demand striker Mauro Boselli's hat trick and now face Alianza Lima, who took a historic victory in Bolivia helped by Jose Carlos Fernandez's brace. Both teams deployed alternative teams in their respective country's league matches and both lost but this match will see who could be at the top of the table early on.
Which match will you be watching? Glad to read a bit about South American squads? Hope MLS pursues Boselli, who's wanted by several European teams? Share your thoughts below.