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Copa Libertadores Week 3 Preview: Managerless Corinthians can’t afford to lose again

Team in focus: Corinthians

Managerless Corinthians suffered a 1-0 defeat at home to Argentinos Jrs in the last round, before consecutive defeats in the Brasileiro to Goias and Palmerias. They head into their next Libertadores match against Independiente del Valle knowing another defeat could well see the Brazilian club six points off first place at the halfway stage.

The club decided to part ways with Fernando Lazaro after their defeat to Argentinos Jrs, before quickly announcing the appointment of Brazilian Cuca. However, just two matches into his reign, the club reversed their decision after protests from the fans over the controversial appointment.

In 1989, Cuca was convicted for allegedly raping a minor, and both the fans and women’s team made their voices heard about the appointment.

With so much happening off the field at the club, the lack of direction has been apparent on it.

With Group E proving to be the most difficult one on paper, Corinthians can’t afford to fall short again, especially in front of their own fans. Promising young striker Yuri Alberto hasn’t scored since the start of March, only adding more pressure on Roger Guedes’ shoulders to carry his team.

The club needs to think carefully about their next appointment, but they need to also move quickly. Their tie on Wednesday could not be bigger, and if Corinthians fall a goal behind against a strong side in IDV, the atmosphere at Neo Quimica Arena could turn very quickly.

Tie of the week: Colo Colo v Boca

Boca’s extraordinary comeback against Pereira in the last round was exactly what new manager Jorge Almiron so desperately craved. Having lost their last three Primera matches, goals in the 89th and 99th minute saw wild scenes from the home fans at La Bombonera.

Since, a 2-2 draw away to Rosario followed before a promising 3-1 win at home to Racing. Almiron has adopted a safer 5-4-1 formation when out of possession, which moves into an attacking 4-3-3 when turning the ball over.

Luis Advincula has been one of Boca’s best players since the switch, scoring the equaliser against Pereira as well as assisting against Racing, using his pace to cause problems down the right channel. Colo Colo must try and keep him quiet on Thursday.

The home side head into this encounter on a six-match unbeaten run, picking up four points from their opening two Libertadores matches.

Carlos Palacios, on loan from Vasco, scored the winner against Monagas from the spot, before netting a brace against Palestino in the league. The 22-year-old is finding his stride in his new surroundings, and he’s one Boca will need to watch.

Forward Damian Pizarro is just 18 but has been very much in Colo Colo’s plans this season, starting the last six matches. He hasn’t scored since 18th March, but the young prospect will look to harass Boca’s back line and take advantage of any opportunities which fall his way.

With both teams tied on four points, three points will be crucial in putting significant distance between those out of the knockout spots at the halfway stage.

Player watch: Pablo Solari

Still slowly working his way into Martin Demichelis’ plans, Pablo Solari continues to show his worth for River when given the opportunity. The 22-year-old scored a 95th minute from the bench against Newells Old Boys before a delicately placed lob against Sporting Cristal helped River come out on top 4-2 to claim their first three points.

Having signed from Colo Colo in 2022, the exciting attacker scored five in 17 appearances in 2022, and despite starting the campaign in the first XI, he’s had to earn opportunities of late.

However, key goals in recent weeks have made him one of the most impactful players for River, making it difficult for Demichelis not to include him. He's likely to be utilised from the bench against their upcoming crucial game against Fluminense, but the Brazilians will know how dangerous he can be from the right wing.

With Marcelo carrying a knock, Solari will be looking to exploit 19-year-old Alexsander at any given opportunity.

Potential upset: Barcelona SC v Palmeiras

With every team on three points after two games, Palmeiras sit bottom of Group C on goal difference. The heavy favourites to finish on top now face a tricky trip to Ecuador.

Barcelona won last time out on home soil against Bolivar, and while that was an expected result, the Ecuadorians will back themselves to pull off an upset against the Brazilians.

Having won all nine home games in 2023, as well as scoring 20 goals, the Ecuadorian outfit have plenty of attacking options to worry Palmeiras’ backline.

While new striker Francisco Fydriszewski continues to find his feet, veteran and captain Damian Diaz continues to lead the way with six goals in eight appearances. At the age of 36, he continues to prove his worth for the club.

Jonatan Bauman scored against Bolivar in the previous round and has proven to be a welcome addition for Barcelona, while Uruguayan forward Agustin Rodriguez scored last time out in the league.

Raphael Veiga returned to Palmeiras’ starting line up against Corinthians in the Brasileiro, scoring and assisting, and he’ll be instrumental to Palmeiras’ attacking play. Yet a trip to Ecuador won’t be easy, and there’s plenty of pressure on the 2021 champions to come away with all three points in a tight group to date.

Three points for the home side would completely open Group C up and see Palmeiras slightly adrift with three games to play.


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