Football: Gunning for the final

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Two teams head into the return legs of the Copa Libertadores semi-finals this week holding a distinct advantage. San Lorenzo, who thrashed Bolivar at home, and Nacional of Paraguay, who built a comfortable advantage against Defensor Sporting, will be looking to capitalise on their first-leg leads and write a new chapter in the history of their clubs. looks ahead to the games.

This week’s fixtures
Semi-final second legs

Tuesday 29 July, 21.15 (local time)
Defensor Sporting (URU) v Nacional (PAR)

Wednesday 30 July, 20.15 (local time)
Bolivar (BOL) v San Lorenzo (ARG)

The stakes
Defensor Sporting v Nacional
Playing in the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, the Uruguayan outfit will be trying to overturn last week’s 2-0 defeat in Asuncion. Coach Fernando Curutchet was certainly not expecting such a negative result in the Paraguayan capital, and is sure to ring the changes in his starting XI in an attempt to turn the tie around.

The Paraguayan team, meanwhile, will be tenaciously defending the lead from the home leg, with coach Gustavo Morinigo not expected to tinker with a winning line-up, fully aware of what is at stake.

Player to watch
Derlis Orue (Nacional)
The young Paraguayan midfielder is in sparkling form and is one of the top scorers in the Copa Libertadores, having hit the net three times. Brimming with confidence after the first leg, he will doubtless be carefully watched by the Defensor rearguard.

The numbers game
0 – Nacional were unbeaten in the away legs of their Round-of-16 and quarter-final matches in this year’s tournament. In the group phase they lost two and drew one of their three away games.

What they said
“We’re about to play the most important match in the club’s entire history.”
Defensor Sporting midfielder Giorgian De Arrascaeta

“In all honesty I say we haven’t won anything yet. In the next game we have to play just as well or even better if we want to reach the final.”
Nacional coach Gustavo Morinigo

Bolivar v San Lorenzo
The Bolivians will need to forget all about last week’s away leg, which ended with a 5-0 rout in Argentina. Spanish coach Xabier Azkargorta says the tactics will be the same but the personnel different ahead of a Herculean task. Bolivar will also be hoping that the 3,600m altitude at which their Hernando Siles stadium is located to can help them achieve a historic comeback.

Despite their emphatic first leg win in Buenos Aires, San Lorenzo will be taking nothing for granted and are expected to field their strongest team. The Argentinian outfit know full well that underestimating their opponents would be a huge mistake as they aim to make their fans’ dreams come true by booking a place in the final for the first time, in La Paz.

Player to watch
Ignacio Piatti (San Lorenzo)
The attacking midfielder is one of coach Edgardo Bauza most trusted lieutenants. The talented goalscorer is a game-changer, and has been a key player in the club’s Copa Libertadores campaign. Soon to leave Argentina to play in the United States, Piatti wants to write his name in the history of the club by winning the famous trophy.

The numbers game
11 – The number of years since Bolivar scored five goals in a Copa Libertadores match, when they beat Penarol 5-2 in La Paz on 25 February 2003.

What they said
“If they (San Lorenzo) scored five, why can’t we do the same? While there’s a chance, we have to go for it.”
Bolivar coach Xabier Azkargorta

“I’m very happy, but I told my players not to go get ahead of themselves because the job is only half done. I know their coach and several of their players, and I know they won’t throw in the towel.”
San Lorenzo coach Edgardo Bauza

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