By DAVID MOSSE
Ronaldinho will be forced to watch another international tournament from his living room this summer, as the former World Player of the Year failed to earn a spot in Brazil’s preliminary squad for the Copa America. But Mano Menezes has left the door open for a future recall, and Ronaldinho has a great platform to show off his skills.
Flamengo and Corinthians, the two most popular clubs in Brazil, meet on Sunday (3 p.m., GOLTV) in a match that should garner an enormous amount of attention. The contest will serve as a farewell for Serbian midfielder Dejan Petkovic, who helped Flamengo win the 2009 Brazilian Championship, and Petkovic might be included in the starting lineup.
Flamengo will be without Thiago Neves, who is away on international duty, and Wanderley Luxemburgo’s side could have its hands full against Corinthians, which has won its first two games. Recent acquisitions Emerson Sheik and Alex are still unavailable, but striker Liedson has been in sensational form since joining the club.
Here's a look ahead to the other important matches in South America this weekend:
Fluminense vs. Cruzeiro, Saturday, 5:30 p.m., GOLTV
With Fred away on international duty, the focus in this clash will be on Argentine playmakers Dario Conca and Walter Montillo, who are both entrusted with providing the inspiration for their respective clubs. Cruzeiro striker Anselmo Ramon certainly had an eventful afternoon last week in the disappointing 1-1 draw with Palmeiras.
Ramon was responsible for an incredible miss, but he also fired home the equalizer later in the game. Abel Braga has yet to assume control of Fluminense, but his assistant Leomir is in charge and should benefit from the return to form Deco. The veteran Portuguese international has been very impressive in the first two weeks.
America Minas Gerais vs. Internacional, Sunday, 5:30 p.m.
The honeymoon is long over for Paulo Roberto Falcao, who angered Internacional directors this week by suggesting the current squad isn’t strong enough to contend for the Brazilian Championship. Internacional is winless after falling to Ceara at home last week and now must take on a dangerous America side in Minas Gerais Sunday.
Falcao will be without leading scorer Leandro Damiao, who is away on international duty, and veteran Rafael Sobis, sidelined due to injury. Their absences should mean an opportunity from the start for Fernando Cavenaghi, but most of the focus will be on fellow Argentine Andres D’Alessandro, who needs to improve on his recent form.
River Plate vs. Atletico Colon, Sunday, 7:20 p.m.
It's desperation time for one of the giants of South American soccer, as River Plate hosts Atletico Colon on Sunday. Los Millonarios need a victory to boost their chances of remaining in the first division, and manager Juan Jose Lopez looks set to turn to striker Diego Buonanotte in place of Mariano Pavone, who has struggled of late.
Lopez has been forced to defend himself this week amid accusations that team president Daniel Passarella is actually picking the lineups. River put forth another terrible performance in a scoreless draw away to Olimpo last time out, but the partnership up front of Buonanotte and Leandro Caruso does offer hope for success.
Velez Sarsfield vs. Godoy Cruz, Monday, 8:15 p.m.
Velez Sarsfield has no choice now but to turn its attention to the domestic race after its Copa Libertadores campaign came to an end in heart-breaking fashion on Thursday night. Ricardo Gareca’s side must bounce back quickly because next up is a highly-anticipated clash against Godoy Cruz with three rounds remaining.
Godoy Cruz squandered an opportunity to moved level on points with Velez last week after surrendering a stoppage-time equalizer to Lucas Castro in a 2-2 draw with Gimnasia La Plata. Jorge da Silva will need his back-line to put forth its best effort of the season against the likes of Ricky Alvarez and Santiago Silva on Monday night.
Nacional vs. Rampla, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Nacional manager Juan Ramon Carrasco has pledged to give several youngsters an opportunity on Sunday in front of what promises to be a festive crowd at the Estadio Gran Parque Central. Los Tricolores clinched the Clausura title last week with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Defensor Sporting and are unbeaten at home this year.
Argentine playmaker Marcelo Gallardo will be playing in the final match of his career, but the lack of motivation on the part of Nacional is good news for a Rampla side fighting for its survival. Los Picapiedras enter the last round three points above Central Espanol and need at least a draw to be sure of remaining in the first division.
Central Espanol vs. Danubio, Sunday, 2:30 p.m.
Central Espanol is the only team involved in the relegation battle that doesn’t control its own destiny heading into this final around, and Los Palermitanos must contend with a very motivated Danubio side still hoping to grab a Copa Sudamericana spot. Central trails both Racing and Rampla Juniors by three points, so a victory is a must.
The good news is that Rampla is away to Nacional and Racing takes on Penarol, while Central Espanol boasts the much better goal difference of the three. Danubio, meanwhile, needs to win and hope Centro Atletico Fenix or Bella Vista drop points. A victory by more than two goals will be enough if Bella Vista and River Plate draw.
Who do you see winning the Flamengo-Corinthians match? How will the relegation battle in Uruguay shake out? What game outside of Brazil will have your attention this weekend?
Share your thoughts below.