The Copa Libertadores returns for a fresh week of stage fixtures. Heavyweights Boca Juniors will look to ease past Chilean outfit Colo-Colo, whilst the year’s surprise package Bolivar are looking to turn even more heads as they welcome Paraguay’s Cerro Porteno to Bolivia.
If those early morning clashes aren’t to your liking, then we also have two Finnish Veikkausliiga games that kick off at 4pm GMT tomorrow afternoon.
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Boca Juniors v Colo Colo
Boca Juniors head into their penultimate fixture knowing a win would guarantee them a place in the Libertadores knockout stage. Having beaten Colo Colo in Chile in the reverse fixture, confidence should be high within the camp that the team can push on and worry about finishing first rather than dropping out altogether.
Colo Colo made life hard for themselves with a 1-1 draw away to Monagas, and now two points behind Boca, anything but a win will make it difficult for them to qualify for the next stage.
At present, Boca have won their last four home matches, scoring eight goals in the process. Former Palmeiras striker Miguel Merentiel has returned from injury and scored in two of those games, and will no doubt be looking to add to his tally when Colo Colo come to town. A home win looks a safe bet, as the Chilean outfit have yet to win on the road in the Libertadores.
Alianza Lima v Atletico MG
All four teams in Group G still have a chance to qualify but this should spell the end of the road for Peruvian champions Alianza Lima. A shock win away to Libertad in round two saw them end a 33-match winless run in this competition before Libertad were able to reverse that result and win 2-1 in Peru.
Previously, Alianza Lima frustrated Athletico PR in the Libertadores curtain raiser to a 0-0 draw and Atletico Mineiro may also struggle against a much-improved side. Atletico lost their only away match 2-1 to Athletico PR but noticeably struggled away from home in the qualification rounds.
A 0-0 draw to Venezuela’s Carabobo as well as a 1-1 draw against Colombia’s Millonarios indicates they can’t get into their rhythm away from their own environment and Alianza Lima may frustrate another Brazilian team as they look to not finish bottom of the group. Even if Atletico MG nick a result, under 2.5 goals will still hopefully land.
Bolivar v Cerro Porteno
Bolivar have been this year’s surprise package and a point here would secure their place in the knockout stage. Given no hope of qualifying at the start of the group stage, Bolivar have beaten 2021 champions Palmeiras as well as Barcelona on home soil, before a huge 4-0 victory over today’s opponents in Paraguay.
The extreme altitude in La Paz provides Bolivar with a huge home advantage. Given their stadium is 3,500m above sea level, it’s not difficult to see why they have won both home matches to date.
Cerro Porteno must win in order to have a chance of qualifying or making the Sudamericana, but having conceded 10 goals in four matches, and only scoring three of their own, the Paraguayan club will find life very difficult in Bolivia.
With so much on the line, Bolivar are expecting a bumper crowd for this integral fixture. Will their main striker Ronnie Fernandez deliver the goods once more? Having scored 13 goals in 15 appearances in 2023, Cerro Porteno may struggle to deal with the 32-year-old forward.
KuPS v AC Oulu
KuPS made light work of Haka on Saturday afternoon, goals from Tuominen, Nissila and Bispo provided a welcome workout and a return to the top of the table. Jani Honkavaara’s team barely got out of second gear, but will need to be tight and organised against a dangerous Oulu side. The defence has been strict since the early managerial change, conceding only two goals – one of those matches was a very confident 0-2 win at Oulu just last month. Nineteen-year-old centre half Collins Shichenje has been imperious since his loan move from AIK – but he misses this match due to a fourth yellow card already, as does Bispo. The renewed steel of KuPS is also bringing ill-discipline and the replacements need to step in smoothly.
What looked like a very comfortable win on Saturday became a tense one for Oulu – a 3-0 lead was quickly reduced to 3-2 by IFK Mariehamn and they just held on for the win. English striker Ashley Coffey bagged another brace, seven for the season, either side of a nice finish from Otto Liimatta. This side are built to score so many goals but are very flaky at the back, enough for KuPS to exploit. Nissila’s strike from long range will worry the Oulu coaching staff and they’ll need to protect their defence better. Coffey is only on a one-year deal and this may be a similar story to Lee Erwin at Haka last year, score plenty, take the team to Europe then who knows…
Inter Turku v KTP
Until recently, it was difficult to tell how good this Inter team actually were. Their first four games were all away from home to top-half teams (they did win at an underprepared KuPS) before their home pitch was ready – they’ve won their last two home games without conceding, looking well-organised and vibrant in the process. A lot was made of the arrival of Jarkko Wiss, so far he has lived up to the hype. The win against Honka was straightforward, the revelation was young midfielder Bismark Ampofo, who has been fast-tracked to the first team after a successful winter trial. His presence harks back to the strong and combative Inter midfields of more successful times and is definitely one to watch here. There are plenty of chances being created by Tommi Jyry and Petteri Forsell, who should get plenty of space against KTP.
This KTP side are far more prepared for Veikkausliiga than the one that came up and went straight back down in 2021. Despite the glut of foreign signings and lack of top-flight experience elsewhere, they’ve been giving big teams a real fright at home, picking up points off those around them and looking like they’ve been around for a lot longer. Willis Furtado’s fourth goal of the season saw off VPS last time out and he’s proving to be very dangerous on the end of crosses. Poor discipline again might prove costly in the future. It’s hard to see them resisting Inter on Wednesday evening but will give them a good game if they can keep eleven men on the pitch.
Argentinos Jrs v Liverpool
Argentinos Jrs currently occupy the top spot in Group E and they know a win will seal qualification to the knockout stage. Having fallen short in their last two matches, they should be able to get back on track in front of their own fans against a Uruguayan side that does not travel well.
Liverpool were not expected to pick up any points in “the group of death” but an important 1-0 victory over IDV last time out has given them an outside chance of qualifying. However, all four points have been claimed at home. They’ve heavily relied on striker Bentancourt, who’s scored all three goals in the Libertadores, but he won’t have many chances in Argentina.
On the road, they’ve been a completely different side, and have not been able to compete at the standard required in this competition.
Having lost 2-0 to IDV in Ecuador, without hitting the target once, it only makes sense to back both teams not to score, as Argentinos Jrs have yet to concede from their two home matches t
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