Estudiantes draw Bolivar in Libertadores

ASUNCION - Holders Estudiantes will open their defence of the Libertadores Cup against Bolivia's Bolivar, a Peruvian team and a qualifier from play-offs following Friday's draw of South America's prime club competition.

The Argentine side lifted their fourth title in July when they beat Brazil's Cruzeiro in the final, winning the second leg 2-1 away in Belo Horizonte after a 0-0 draw in the first leg in La Plata.

The South American Football Confederation (CSF), which held the draw at its headquarters in the Paraguayan capital, said the tournament would begin on January 27 with the final on August 18, later than usual after a break during the June 11-July 11 World Cup in South Africa.

"We started out last year in the (preliminary) play-off phase and we got to be champions, so you can't underestimate anyone," Estudiantes president Ruben Filipas told reporters at the draw. "But I think we ought to get through the group stage."

The winners of each of the eight groups and the six best second-placed teams will go through to the last 16 where they will be joined by Mexico's San Luis and Guadalajara.

The two Mexican teams, given a bye into the last 16, withdrew midway through this year's tournament after their South American rivals refused to travel to Mexico at the height of the H1N1 flu epidemic.

Among the few teams to have already qualified for the group phase are Corinthians, the Brazilian side looking to win the title for the first time in their centenary year, 2004 champions Once Caldas of Colombia, three times winners Nacional of Uruguay and Argentina's Velez Sarsfield, who lifted the trophy in 1994.