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Four former champions bidding for Copa finals

Four former champions bidding for Copa finals

A quartet of former champions play this week for the right to dispute the final of the 50th Copa Libertadores. Both second-leg semifinals are finely balanced but, of the four teams, Brazil's Cruzeiro looks the likeliest to reach the two-leg final on July 8 and 15.
Nacional of Uruguay hosts Estudiantes of Argentina hoping to overturn a 1-0 deficit on Wednesday, while Brazilian clubs Gremio and Cruzeiro clash on Thursday with Cruzeiro defending a 3-1 home victory from the first leg.
All four clubs have won Latin America's most prestigious club competition before. Estudiantes and Nacional have three Libertadores titles, while Cruzeiro and Gremio have been champions twice.
Estudiantes' chances of reaching another final are closely tied to the fitness of iconic captain Juan Sebastian Veron, the former Manchester United and Lazio midfielder.
Veron limped out of the first leg against Nacional last week with a calf injury and is doubtful for the return in Montevideo.
"He's a special player because he's the leader," Veron's midfield partner Rodrigo Brana said. "If he doesn't play we have to buckle down and not think about it."
Nacional has a proud history of its own in the Libertadores, but has endured a barren spell since last winning the cup in 1988 when Uruguayan football began to slide into decline.
Veron is also on the mind of Nacional coach Gerardo Pelusso.
"He's the strategist, he's very important," Pelusso told the Argentina newspaper La Nacion.
The return leg between Brazilian rivals Cruzeiro and Gremio in Porto Alegre will likely be played in a charged atmosphere.
Cruzeiro cruised to a three-goal lead in the first leg in Belo Horizonte, but a free kick by Souza with just over 10 minutes remaining gave Gremio a potentially crucial away goal.
The aftermath of the match was overshadowed by Cruzeiro midfielder Elicarlos' claims that he had been racially insulted by Gremio's Argentine striker Maxi Lopez.
Lopez gave a statement to Brazilian police and denied the charges.
"It was a normal thing, it happens in all games," the O Globo newspaper reported Lopez telling police. "There was nothing racially offensive on my part. I was fighting for my teammate. I'm against racism in all forms."


Updated : 2021-05-06 07:20 GMT+08:00