Team in focus: Fluminense
Fluminense are clicking into gear and four big wins in April have certainly caught the eye. To come back and win 3-1 from a goal down in Peru against Sporting Cristal in the Libertadores isn’t as easy as the odds suggested. To then follow that performance up with a convincing 4-1 victory over Flamengo to win the Campeonato Carioca shows the players are buying into Fernando Diniz’s style of play.
The goals continued to flow with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Paysundu in the Copa do Brasil, before an opening Brasileirao 3-0 victory against America MG was further evidence the Libertadores dark horses are to be taken very seriously.
Yet with Marcelo’s return and German Cano in the form of his life, Diniz’s team are very much in the spotlight and are shortening each game to be crowned champions.
German Cano has scored 19 goals in his last 11 matches. He's the highest scoring Argentine in 2023, above Lionel Messi.
Next up in the Libertadores
A home encounter against The Strongest should prove to be a goal fest, after the Bolivian's enjoyed an historic victory over River Plate in their opening match.
However, Bolivian teams do not travel well away from their high altitude in La Paz, and Fluminense are likely to put on a show in front of their home fans and pull The Strongest apart - just how they have been doing against far stronger opponents in recent weeks.
German Cano is already the favourite to win the golden boot having scored a brace against Sporting Cristal, and the Argentine striker will be licking his lips at the prospect of adding to his tally when El Tigre come to town.
If Fluminense keep their foot on the gas throughout the 90, they'll be sitting top of Group D with a very healthy goal difference come full time.
Tie of the week: Athletico PR v Atletico MG
Group G was meant to be dominated by the Brazilian sides yet was blown wide open when Libertad beat Atletico MG in their own back yard.
As a result, the pressure on Atletico has grown, who opened up as heavy favourites to finish top.
Athletico PR were unable to take their golden opportunity, having been held to a frustrating 0-0 draw with Alianza Lima in Peru.
A second defeat for Atletico MG will send alarm bells ringing, having already endured the qualifying rounds just to make it to the group stage. Yet the current third favourites to win the Libertadores can take comfort in the fact they’ve beaten Athletico PR in their last seven head to heads, while Hulk is likely to return having missed the match against Libertad.
Last year’s top goalscorer for Atletico MG, both domestically and in the Libertadores, plays a pivotal role for the club and he’s almost relied on to carry Atletico at times.
Athletico PR, on the other hand, had failed to find the net in their last three matches before winning their opening Brasileirao match against Goais. Despite breaking that record, their strikers are struggling to find form at present.
Although they have 18-year-old Vitor Roque available to lead the line, there’s a lot of pressure on the young prospect to constantly perform.
He’s clearly very talented, with a host of European clubs looking at him, but he needs the service and opportunities which aren’t coming at present.
A tightly fought contest expected, but will Athletico PR be able to break Atletico MG’s winning streak over them? Time will tell, with this crucial fixture taking place on Wednesday 19th.
Player watch: Matias Rojas
This one may seem more obvious than the coming weeks, but I can’t help but be in awe of Matias Rojas. Having scored seven goals in nine matches for club and country, the 27-year-old is arguably in the form of his life.
Scoring free kicks from wide positions, as well as his ridiculous goal against Nublense deep in his own half in Racing’s opener, Rojas is playing with extreme confidence.
The Paraguayan international has one of the best left foots in South America, and with a football brain to match, it’s no wonder why he’s adored by the Racing faithful.
After a couple of disappointing defeats of late, Racing will turn to their star player as they host Aucas – who beat Flamengo 2-1 in their opening match – and we should be treated to quite the spectacle on Thursday.
Potential upset: Boca v Pereira
It’s been an extremely tough period for Boca, who fired club legend Hugo Ibarra and replaced him with Jorge Almiron. The new manager was last seen at Spanish club Elche, but he didn’t last a month and was sacked in November 2022.
Since his appointment, Boca have lost their last three league matches to Estudiantes and Colon at home as well as San Lorenzo on the road.
Having failed to beat Monagas in their opening Libertadores match, as well as finishing with nine men, it’ll be interesting to see how Boca potentially bounce back.
Pereira, on the other hand, are unbeaten in six matches and in their first ever Libertadores match, held Colo Colo to a 1-1 draw and were unfortunate to not come away with the three points. Having gifted the Chileans a penalty, Pereira fought back with 16 shots in the second half alone, forcing Brayan Cortes into six saves before Angelo Rodriguez found the back of the net with ten minutes left on the clock.
It's a tall order to expect Pereira to go to La Bombonera and come away with a point, or three, and it’s certainly not expected.
However, if ever there was a time to play Boca, it’s certainly now.