South America’s Club Tournament Enters Pivotal Day With Only Two Teams Through To The Round Of 16
By Luca Galvao – LA Soccer Press /
It’s been a one-of-a-kind tournament for the 2021 edition of the Copa Libertadores. Teams that have already clinched the top spot of their group:
– Palmeiras, Atlético Mineiro (BRA)
– Argentinos Juniors (ARG)
Despite losing their fifth matchup in the Copa Libertadores, reigning-champions Palmeiras still guaranteed top seed in group A thanks to an away victory in Ecuador on the fourth matchday. Meanwhile, Atlético Mineiro and Argetinos Juniors both confirmed their top spots thanks to 1-nil victories versus Cerro Porteño and Atlético Nacional, respectively. Eyeing the Round of 16, all three teams will most likely field an alternative lineup for their last matchday of the Group Stage.
Teams who are already through to the Round of 16 (possibly still fighting for top spot in their group):
– São Paulo, Flamengo (BRA)
– Defensa y Justicia, Racing Club, Vélez Sarsfield (ARG)
– Barcelona (ECU)
In Group C, Barcelona currently sit three points ahead of Boca Juniors. Barcelona need only a draw at home, versus Santos, to confirm their first place.
In Group E, Racing Club holds a three-point lead over São Paulo heading into the last gameday. Tied on goal-difference, São Paulo’s only chance of topping the group is to win their game against Sporting Cristal, and hope that Rentistas defeat Racing, in Argentina. An unlikely scenario.
Meanwhile in Group G, having already guaranteed the group’s two spots, Flamengo and Vélez will go head-to-head on the last matchday to decide the group’s top spot. Currently with a two-point lead, Flamengo will host Vélez at the Maracanã Stadium on Thursday, May 27.
Teams still in contention for a place in the Round of 16:
– Internacional, Santos, Fluminense (BRA)
– Deportivo Táchira (VEN)
– Always Ready, The Strongest (BOL)
– Olimpia, Cerro Porteño (PAR)
– Boca Juniors, River Plate (ARG)
– Junior Barranquilla, Atlético Nacional, América de Cali (COL)
– Universidad Católica (CHI)
– Nacional (URU)
Group B has been one of the tightest so far in the competition. Internacional and Deportivo Táchira are tied with nine points. Inter leads on goal-difference. While Always Ready and Olimpia are tied with six points. Therefore, the group is still completely up for grabs. Internacional will host Always Ready, while Olimpia will host Deportivo Táchira. Both games will occur on Wednesday, May 26.
In Group C, Boca Juniors are in second place, with seven points. Santos and The Strongest are currently tied on six points. Santos will travel to face group-leader Barcelona, while Boca host The Strongest. The games will be played on Wednesday, May 26.
In group D, the group of death, three teams are still fighting for two spots. River Plate currently lead with nine points. In second place, Fluminense, with eight points. And third, Junior Barranquilla, with six points. River Plate took the lead of the group following a historical match versus Independiente Santa Fé. With 20 players out due to COVID, no goalkeepers and with no substitutes on the bench, River Plate won the match 2-1 with midfielder Enzo Perez playing in goal. For the last matchday, River will host Fluminense. A draw would qualify River, while Fluminense would have to hope Junior don’t defeat Independiente. While a win for Fluminense would mean River would depend on the result coming out of Colombia. To have any chance of qualifying, Junior must win their last match against Independiente.
In Group F, three teams are still fighting for second place. Universidad Católica sit in second, with six points, while Atlético Nacional and Nacional-URU are tied on five points. On Wednesday, May 26, Nacional-URU will host Argentinos Juniors, while Católica will face Atlético Nacional.
Last, Cerro Porteño with a three-point lead, will host América de Cali in a battle for Group H’s last spot. Whoever wins will go through, while a draw would qualify the hosts.
Teams who can no longer qualify for the Round of 16 but are still in contention for a place in the Copa Sudamericana:
– Independiente del Valle, Liga de Quito (ECU)
– Universitário, Sporting Cristal (PER)
– Rentistas (URU)
– Unión La Calera (CHI)
– La Guaira (VEN)
In Group A, Independiente del Valle and Universitário are tied on four points. The two teams will keep an eye out for each other’s game to see who finishes in third place, earning the group’s spot for the knock-out stages of the Copa Sudamericana.
Similarly to Group A, Group B has Sporting Cristal and Rentistas visiting the group’s already-qualified teams. Sporting currently have four points, while Rentistas have three in the battle for third place.
In Group G, Liga de Quito are very close to confirming their place in the Copa Sudamericana. They will host Unión La Calera on the last matchday. A draw or a defeat by less than three goals will see Liga through to the Sudamericana.
Teams who can no longer qualify for the Round of 16 or the Copa Sudamericana:
– Independiente Santa Fé (COL)
With only two points earned in five matches, Independiente have no more chances of qualifying for the Libertadores or the Sudamericana.
Galvao studies kinesiology at CSU Northridge. He writes about South American futbol for L.A. Soccer Press.