By NESTOR F. SEBASTIAN
Two of South America's most storied clubs — Brazil's Santos and Uruguay's Penarol – face off in the return leg of the Copa Libertadores final tonight (8:30 p.m., Fox Sports en Espanol) after a goalless match last week at the famed Centenario stadium in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Last week's contest was a frustrating one for Penarol, as they were outclassed on several occasions but were kept in the game by its force between the pipes, Sebastian Sosa, whose stock has risen in this year's campaign.
The midfield battles were noticeable, as both teams failed to penetrate each other's defensive postures successfully and failed to capitalize when doing so. Penarol looked more lively in the second half when veteran forward Antonio Pacheco was introduced, while Neymar couldn't do much as Dario Rodriguez contained him along with his backline colleagues.
The second leg will see the return of Santos' 21-year-old attacking mid Paulo Henrique Ganso, who hasn't seen action since early May because of injury. For the Uruguayans, 21-year-old winger Jonathan Urretavisacaya, on loan from Benfica, has recuperated from his own injury and will make the bench. Meanwhile, Penarol will be glad to see its goalscorer Juan Manuel Olivera back in business after picking up a knock last week.
With Ganso most likely in the lineup, possibly staying in midfield and limiting his attacks because of his month-long absence, Santos may see Danilo push into the back alongside Edu Dracena, who also returns on defense.
Santos started out slow in the tournament but has progressively gotten better, especially after appointing Murcy Ramalho as manager back in April. Although many weren't enthused with his defensive-minded tactics, no one could deny the discipline shown in his young star-studded team.
The Brazilians may also use some bulletin board material by none other than Diego Maradona, who labeled Neymar as disrespectful who will never reach the capabilities of Lionel Messi after Neymar stated his ambitions to become the best in the world.
For Penarol, its task won't be simple but the Manyas have clinched their advancement in each stage of the tournament away from home, most notably its Round of 16 upset of defending champions Internacional in Brazil. If anyone can rain on the planned party at Sao Paulo's Pacaembu stadium, it's the five-time champions with the black-and-yellow kits.
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