By Gabriel Pessoa
The finish line is in sight for the Copa Libertadores group stage as this week will see the fifth out of the six group-stage matches play out. While Internacional, Libertad, Cerro Porteno and Cruzeiro have punched their tickets to the Round of 16, the remaining 12 spots are still up for grabs. The two remaining matchdays will shape the landscape of the rest of the tournament.
With 4️⃣ matchweeks in the books, let's take a look at the standings in each group: pic.twitter.com/EQJ83zRpxR— CONMEBOL Libertadores (@TheLibertadores) April 12, 2019
Libertad (PAR) vs. Gremio (BRA) – Group H
Tuesday at 6:05pm ET live on beIN SPORTS (ENG HD)
Libertad has arguably been the most pleasant surprise of the tournament up until this point. With all due respect to the Paraguayans, no one had them as favorites coming into Group H. Despite a headline-grabbing coaching change at the beginning of the tournament - with Leonel Alvarez reportedly getting the heave-ho for sleeping with a number of his players’ significant others - El Gumarelo have managed to clinch qualification and remain top of the stands with an attractive brand of soccer.
While Club Libertad is already mathematically through to the knockout stage, the chance to spoil Gremio’s hopes of doing the same will provide amble motivation.
Languishing in third place and very much in danger of an early exit, three-time Libertadores champions Gremio is strong in the running to be the competition’s biggest letdown. Renato Gaucho’s men have only conjured four points from a possible 12, with their only win coming last time out against Rosario Central.
A win in Asuncion, though, could set the Brazilians up nicely for the final round of group stage matches, when they face the other side in the running for second place: Universidad Católica.
🔝⚽ With 4 matchweeks in the books, here's a look at the goalscoring charts! pic.twitter.com/1YyF7f4qZi— CONMEBOL Libertadores (@TheLibertadores) April 13, 2019
Palestino (CHI) vs. River Plate (ARG) – Group A
Wednesday at 6:05pm ET live on beIN SPORTS (ENG HD)
The defending Libertadores champions have had a rough start to the beginning of the 2019 campaign and the results in Group A thus far have been less than satisfactory for River Plate’s standards. After Colombian midfielder Juan Fernando Quintero suffered an ACL tear, the rest of Marcelo Gallardo’s men have failed to step into the limelight.
Whomever will choose to take on the leading role better act quickly. The group stage has reached its final stretch and River Plate will have a difficult test on the road Wednesday as it faces Palestino in Chile.
A win for the Chilean side will see them to overtake River Plate for second place in Group A and seriously jeopardize River’s chances of qualifying for the Round of 16. This would an unfathomable shame for the Argentine club just months after lifting the Libertadores trophy.
Deportes Tolima (COL) vs. Boca Juniors (ARG) – Group G
Wednesday at 8:20pm ET live on beIN SPORTS en Español (SPA) and CONNECT 4 (ENG)
Speaking of an Argentina giant that has not necessarily lived up to its expectations so far, Boca Juniors will be visiting Deportes Tolima for a must-win match in Colombia. Last year’s runner-up is currently second in Group G but Tolima could equal Boca Juniors on seven points with a home win.
On the flip side, a victory for Boca could send them to the top of the group depending on Athletico Paranaense’s result against Jorge Wilstermann Wednesday. Whatever the case may be, Carlos Tevez and company need to straighten their act out. Should they qualify, knockout stages are not as forgiving as group stage and they know it.
Rumbo a Colombia 🛫😀 pic.twitter.com/D9rY7BXdyl— Boca Jrs. Oficial (@BocaJrsOficial) April 22, 2019
Alianza Lima (PER) vs. Internacional (BRA) – Group A
Wednesday at 8:15pm ET live on beIN SPORTS CONNECT 6
Internacional of Porto Alegre, Brazil sit alone at the top of Group A, already assured of a spot in the next round. The leaders’ next opponent, Alianza Lima, are dead last in the group with a mere one point to their name. So why does this match matter?
The answer comes in the form of Internacional’s main striker. Peruvian sensation Paulo Guerrero made headlines on matchday four when the striker made his Libertadores debut and bagged a brace in his second match back from a doping ban.
Guerrero began his career at Alianza Lima, within its youth academy, making Wednesday a special homecoming for the striker. With Alianza a long way from qualifying to the Round of 16, the Peruvian supporters should not mind too much if Guerrero happens to score against his boyhood club.
LDU Quito (ECU) vs. Flamengo (BRA) – Group D
Wednesday at 8:20PM ET live on beIN SPORTS (ENG HD)
Flamengo can guarantee knockout stage qualification on Wednesday with a win when the Brazilians travel to Ecuador to face LDU Quito.
Flamengo come in fresh off a major victory against one of its greatest rivals in Vasco da Gama for the Carioca title. The Ecuadorians on the other hand are sitting in third place and still hold a slim chance of advancing to the next stage, but they will need a win at home to keep those hopes alive.
A mid-week win would particularly come in handy for Flamengo because the Brazilian Serie A begins this weekend and Flamengo faces Cruzeiro in this season’s opener. Look for Diego and Arrascaeta to secure safe passage in Libertadores before they set their gaze on the domestic campaign.