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Boca Juniors, Sao Paulo favorites in Copa Lib

Boca Juniors, Sao Paulo favorites in Copa Lib

Boca Juniors and Sao Paulo are among the favorites as the Copa Libertadores begins its knock-out phase this week with 16 teams contending for the most prestigious prize in Latin American club football.
Brazil has five clubs in the final 16 with Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay each supplying two. Missing is defending champion Liga de Quito, and two high-profile Argentine clubs are also absent: River Plate and San Lorenzo.
The two Mexican clubs in the chase _ San Luis and Chivas of Guadalajara _ have had their first-leg matches delayed by a week as officials monitor the swine flu outbreak in the country.
Juan Roman Riquelme will be one of the players to watch as the Boca playmaker tries to lead his club to a record-equalling seventh Libertadores title. Riquelme missed Boca's final group match last week with a foot injury, but coach Carlos Ischia said he should be back for the knockout round.
"When Riquelme is fit and not in pain, he's going to play," Ischia told Argentine newspaper La Nacion. "I'm hoping to have him back soon. Roman is a positive leader."
After a poor start to the Argentine league championship this year, Ischia is under pressure to deliver the Libertadores title.
"I won't quit if I don't win the cup," he said. "It's not something that fits with my personality. I trust the squad, they still have the ability to play and to overcome bad times."
Boca's main challenge is likely to come from Brazil. Sao Paulo won the Brazilian title for an unprecedented third time running last year and heads a strong challenge from the country which also includes Palmeiras, Cruzeiro, Gremio and Sport Recife.
Meanwhile, the swine flu outbreak has created uncertainty surrounding the fixtures involving Mexican clubs.
San Luis was due to host Nacional of Uruguay, while Sao Paulo was slated to visit Chivas in the first leg fixtures this week.
South American football's governing body CONMEBOL tried to switch the Mexican clubs' home games to Colombia and then to Chile, but both countries turned down the requests citing health concerns. The body has now postponed the fixtures involving Mexican clubs for a week while a suitable alternative is sought.
According to the Excelsior newspaper in Mexico, Chivas owner Jorge Vergara has suggested playing his club's match at the Chivas USA stadium in Los Angeles or in Deportivo Saprissa's ground in Costa Rica.
The two-legged round of 16 begins Tuesday when Palmeiras hosts Sport Recife. On Wednesday, Gremio visits Universidad San Martin of Peru. Four further fixtures are set for Thursday: Deportivo Cuenca vs. Caracas, Estudiantes vs. Libertad, Defensor Sporting vs. Boca Juniors and Universidad de Chile vs. Cruzeiro.


Updated : 2021-05-17 08:23 GMT+08:00