By NESTOR F. SEBASTIAN
Copa Libertadores quarterfinalists will be determined this week as the second-leg matches of the Round of 16 phase kick off with Mexico's Chivas, Argentina's Banfield and Brazil's Cruzeiro going into their away games with comfortable leads.
Both of Peru's teams gave disappointing performances at home last week, Mexico's other representative San Luis couldn't get past Argentina's Estudiantes and its reserves while the much-anticipated clash between Ronaldo's Corinthians and Adriano's Flamengo at the Maracana left much to be desired as monsoon-like conditions left pond-sized puddles all over the pitch.
Here is a look at this week's matches which will be broadcast on FOX SPORTS EN ESPANOL:
(Scores are from first leg)
SAO PAULO 0 v. UNIVERSITARIO 0, 6:30PM ET
Peru's Universitario were outclassed by Brazil's Sao Paulo in Lima and the return tie should confirm the Brazilians' passage into the quarterfinal round. La U were uncreative, lacked any spark and couldn't get their rabid fan base into the match that was thoroughly dominated by the Tricolo Paulista. Sao Paulo rarely loses at home and reaffirmed that to visitors to its Web site where it showed a statistic that will have U supporters shaking their heads — 41 wins and only 4 losses in 51 Libertadores matches at home.
VELEZ SARSFIELD 0 v. CHIVAS 3, 8:50PM ET
Even without five starters out due to national team commitments and injuries, Chivas was able to continue its successful track record against Argentine clubs in Libertadores competition with Omar Bravo scoring a brace and Hector Reynoso connecting on a penalty in the dying minutes last week. The Goats' youngsters surprised the visitors with their velocity and pace as Chivas moved forward with precision, leaving Velez hoping for a miraculous comeback tonight.
ESTUDIANTES DE LA PLATA 1 v. SAN LUIS 0, 6:30PM ET
San Luis hoped to shake off a poor domestic campaign by upsetting the defending champions, who were missing several top names. However, it was the Argentine youngsters that outwitted the Mexican side and were unfortunate not to put more goals past them. Perhaps a 41st-minute missed penalty by Estudiantes prevented an onslaught of goals. For the second leg, Juan Sebastian Veron, Mauro Boselli and Jose Sosa make their return.
NACIONAL 1 v. CRUZEIRO 3, 8:50PM ET
Thiago Ribeiro's hat trick completed a splendid display by the Brazilians at home and caused somewhat of an uproar in Uruguay where media and fans expected more from the Bolso. The meeting between 2009 semifinalists Nacional and 2009 finalists Cruzeiro lived up to expectations as both sides expertly controlled play even after Ribeiro's first goal in the sixth minute. Nevertheless, the Uruguayans got an important away goal from Mario Regueiro to start the second half and were unlucky not to mark more.
CORINTHIANS 0 v. FLAMENGO 1, 8:50PM ET
A torrential downpour and resulting water-logged field made for a bloopers video instead of a highly-awaited Libertadores contest at the famed Maracana between Ronaldo and Adriano. Flamengo did get the last laugh as Adriano's converted penalty gave the Mengao a slim lead going into the return tie in Sao Paulo.
INTERNACIONAL 1 v. BANFIELD 3, 6:30PM ET
Banfield put on an extraordinary display in the second half of last week's match after Brazil's Internacional saw their top scorer Kleber ejected six minutes after netting an equalizer for deliberately stepping on Argentine midfielder Walter Erviti. Two minutes later, Banfield scored again on their way to dominating the rest of the game.
UNIVERSIDAD DE CHILE 1 v. ALIANZA LIMA 0, 9PM ET
Peru's Alianza Lima were shell-shocked at the stance of la U de Chile throughout the match, causing manager Gustavo Costas to make some questionable changes in a possible moment of panic. The Chileans ultimately confirmed Alianza's worst nightmare by scoring in the closing minutes on a defensive blunder. La U will host the second-leg match at the stadium of its fiercest rival, Colo Colo, whose supporters already confirmed that they will stand with Alianza fans for the match.
LIBERTAD 0 v. ONCE CALDAS 0, 9PM ET
Libertad goalkeeper Bernardo Medina kept Once Caldas' strikers at bay and preserved the goalless tie last week in Colombia. The Paraguayans maintained a tight, disciplined and defensive-minded scheme but also surprised the Colombians on sporadic counterattacks but didn't produce. The second leg should be entertaining as both sides boast top-class forwards who will no doubt be looking to get on the scoresheet first.
What do you think of these matchups? Who do you hope to see in the quarterfinals? Hope another team other than a Brazilian or Argentine takes it? Share your thoughts below.