Wednesday, July 6, 2016

São Paulo and Atlético Nacional meet in Copa Libertadores semi-final

After a long international break due to the Copa América, the biggest stage of South American club football returns tonight. In Brazil, São Paulo host Atlético Nacional in the first leg of their semifinal. 

São Paulo's Morumbi stadium is ready for tonight.
Following a relatively average start to the new Brazilian league season (10th place and 18 points), the focus shifted to the ultimate competition pretty quickly. São Paulo are in the hunt to win South America's most famous trophy again, for the first time since 2005. This meant that coach Edgardo Bauza rested most of his first XI during their previous league outing. A little surprisingly, they still managed to come away victorious against Fluminense, 2-1. 

The Copa Libertadores winner of 1989, Colombia's Atlético Nacional, have not won their past four games and were eliminated by Atlético Junior in the playoffs for the Clausura title. However, during this international season, the Colombians have been exceptional. A stunning 0.36 goals against per game shows great defensive abilities. Throughout the group stages, they had not conceded a goal. This changed quickly when Huracán and Rosario Central gave them some scares in the following knockout rounds. So far, Atlético Nacional have prevailed and will have to do so again tonight (2:45am CET), likely without the help of one of their best players so far. Farid Díaz is injured and his attacks down the left flank would be severely missed.

Impressive defensive record for Atlético Nacional. (Taken from
São Paulo on the other hand have a clean bill of health and will look towards Argentine striker Jonathan Calleri, who scored 8 goals in the competition so far and needed 90 minutes per goal. By that same logic, you would be able to expect one from him tonight.

The second leg between the two will be played a week later. São Paulo or Atlético Nacional will face the winner of Independiente del Valle - Boca Juniors in the final (20th and 27th July).


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