Copa Lib knock-out stage: runners 'n' riders
Football lovers around the world, the group phase of Copa Libertadores Ã¢ÂÂ South AmericaÃ¢ÂÂs Champions League Ã¢ÂÂ is over, and the knockout phases begin in earnest tomorrow (Tuesday) at Lanus. So letÃ¢ÂÂs preview the clashes in the Ã¢ÂÂround of 16Ã¢ÂÂ with the sharpest predictions youÃ¢ÂÂll find anywhere. Well, maybe...
CA LanÃÂºs (ARG) vs Atlas (MEX) (Tue Apr 29, Tue May 6)
The only undefeated squad at the Libertadores, LanÃÂºs should keep their record through this round: despite finishing atop their group, Atlas havenÃ¢ÂÂt been impressive. Besides, if the Argentinians manage to stop fellow countryman Bruno Marioni, theyÃ¢ÂÂre halfway through.
LDU Quito (ECU) vs Estudiantes LP (ARG) (Tue Apr 29, Wed May 7)
The Ecuadorians have been trying for some years, displaying a fair share of good football (as in this yearÃ¢ÂÂs 6-1 rout of poor Arsenal) but tend to bottle it at the last minute. Estudiantes will repeat the dose in this tournament.
Boca Juniors (ARG) vs Cruzeiro (BRA) (Wed Apr 30, Wed May 7)
The game of the round: one of BrazilÃ¢ÂÂs best outfits against the defending champions, who seem to always do the job when itÃ¢ÂÂs needed. Cruzeiro have the tournamentÃ¢ÂÂs top scorer, eight-goal Bolivian Marcelo Moreno, but Juan Roman RiquelmeÃ¢ÂÂs boys will somehow squeeze through Ã¢ÂÂ in spite of, Maradona will say, coach Carlos Ischia.
CF AmÃÂ©rica (MEX) vs Flamengo (BRA) (Wed Apr 30, Wed May 7)
Life without miracle-worker Joel Santana Ã¢ÂÂ who saved them from relegation in the last nine games in 2005 but has now taken over from Carlos Alberto Perreira in charge of South Africa Ã¢ÂÂ is a mystery for Flamengo. Their first challenge is to shoot down the Mexican Eagles, always a tough opponent up there. But America have had better teams, so the Brazilians will escape this one.
Santana: "Tickets, money, passport, iPod, something to read on the plane..."
San Lorenzo (ARG) vs River Plate (ARG) (Wed Apr 30, Thu May 8)
My fellow blogger Daniel Ã¢ÂÂArgie BargyÃ¢ÂÂ Neilson can tell you more about this all-Argentine clash, but my feeling is that River Plate will send the roller-coaster San Lorenzo off the rails. They wonÃ¢ÂÂt be able to hold Sebastian Abreu, Falcao Garcia and the rest of RiverÃ¢ÂÂs artillery, which tops the tournament chart with 14 goals.
AtlÃÂ©tico Nacional (COL) vs Fluminense (BRA) (Wed Apr 30, Tue May 6)
The Brazilians had the first roundÃ¢ÂÂs best campaign, playing some very nice football. But theyÃ¢ÂÂre rather inexperienced in Libertadores Ã¢ÂÂ unlike AtlÃÂ©tico Nacional, who will use the Atanasio Girardot stadiumÃ¢ÂÂs Ã¢ÂÂWelcome to HellÃ¢ÂÂ factor to scare the visitors. Still, IÃ¢ÂÂd guess Fluminense will survive.
Nacional (URU) vs SÃÂ£o Paulo FC (BRA) (Wed Apr 30, Wed May 7)
Adriano is the only remarkable thing about SÃÂ£o Paulo, who will have to overcome the painful State Championship defeat to Palmeiras to beat a Uruguayan side always fierce at home. ItÃ¢ÂÂs gonna be an even one, but SÃÂ£o Paulo will prevail.
Santos FC (BRA) vs CÃÂºcuta Deportivo (COL) (Thu May 1, Thu May 8)
CÃÂºcuta arenÃ¢ÂÂt a surprise package any more: they made the semis last year and these teams have already clashed in the group phase, with a draw on the opening day and a last-minute Santos win in the last game. ItÃ¢ÂÂs time now for skilled CÃÂºcuta to beat the Vila Belmiro squad and advance.