By Gabriel Pessoa
The second round of the Copa Sudamericana is set to kick off and if the first round - where no less than ten of the 22 matchups one ended in penalty shootouts - is any indicator of what to expect, we are in for a treat. Important to note: the chaff has been separated from the wheat in the Copa Libertadores, meaning household names like Fluminense, Corinthians and Atletico Nacional will be joining the party in round two.
With the action getting started on Tuesday across the beIN SPORTS network, here are some of the bigger matches to watch out for:
Universidad Catolica (CHI) vs. FBC Melgar (PER)
Tuesday at 6pm ET live on beIN SPORTS Connect 4
The week kicks off with a clash between two teams that dropped out of the Copa Libertadores. Chilean club Universidad Catolica failed to make it out of the very tough group H, and will be looking to bounce back with a strong run in the Copa Sudamericana.
Hoping to deprive them of a redemption story is a youthful Melgar team with an appealing brand of soccer. Having battled through the qualifying stages of the Copa Libertadores, Los Rojinegros will go into this matchup as underdogs, a status they have grown accustomed to.
Melgar has already pulled off some impressive results this season: beating Junior twice and holding San Lorenzo to a scoreless draw. Universidad Catolica would be foolish to underestimate this opponent.
Rionegro Águilas (COL) vs. Independiente (ARG)
Tuesday at 8:20pm ET live on beIN SPORTS (ENG HD)
Cinderella Story is an overused term in today’s sporting parlance, but if one team fits description perhaps Rionegro Águilas of Colombia is the most deserving candidate.
Despite having never won domestic or international title, the Golden Eagles are still soaring in the competition, and, meeting the criteria that Cinderella overcome some form of adversity, they were one of the teams to survive a nerve-wracking penalty shootout in the last round, when they turned Oriente Petrolero into a pumpkin.
The Colombian outfit will now go toe-to-toe with Independiente of Argentina: a seven-time Copa Libertadores and two-time Copa Sudamericana winner, clinching silverware in the latter as recently as 2017.
While it is clear which of the two clubs is the favorite to progress, an upset is never off the cards. Best not to risk missing such a potentially historic game.
Deportivo Cali (COL) vs. Penarol (URU)
Wednesday at 6:05pm ET live on beIN SPORTS (ENG HD)
The nine-time Colombian champions are set to face South American giants Penarol. The Uruguayan side crashed out of the Copa Libertadores in heart-breaking fashion, tying Flamengo and LDU Quito on points, but missing out because of goal difference.
Penarol’s players will still have their final group stage match against Flamengo – which ended scoreless - fresh in their memories, and will look to take their frustrations out on Wednesday's opponents.
Deportivo Cali, for their part, eliminated Guarani in the last round following a penalty shootout. Lucas Pusineri’s men will, on paper, have a tougher test come Wednesday against the five-time Copa Libertadores champions.
Corinthians (BRA) vs. Deportivo Lara (VEN)
Thursday at 6:05pm ET live on beIN SPORTS (ENG HD)
Deportivo Lara’s Copa Libertadores journey came to a premature end after six testing games in Group B, and things do not appear to have gotten any easier for the Venezuelan side, with Brazilian giants Corinthians waiting for them in the second stage of the Copa Sudamericana.
Corinthians has one of the largest and fiercest followings of any club in the world, and an impressive trophy cabinet to match: seven Brazilian titles, one Copa Libertadores title and two FIFA Club World Cup titles.
Corinthians survived a wild penalty shootout against Racing Club of Argentina the last time out, and will be looking to avoid another nervy ending in the second round as they continue their pursuit of a first ever Copa Sudamericana trophy.
Fluminense (BRA) vs. Atletico Nacional (COL)
Thursday at 8:20pm ET live on beIN SPORTS (ENG HD)
Saving the best till last certainly applies for this one.
Fluminense, a club that has brought us super stars like Thiago Silva and Marcelo, still boasts a formidable roster. Flu’s young and talented team will face one of Colombia’s historic sides, Atletico Nacional. El Verde have won the Copa Libertadores as recently as 2016, and will be eager to add a first Copa Sudamericana title to their collection.
Of the two teams, Nacional is marginally ahead as the favorite to progress from this matchup. The Atanasio Girardot Stadium in Medellin is an unforgiving venue for visiting sides, so Fluminense will need to get as much of a head start as possible in the first leg at the Maracanã. The verdict is still out on whether O Tricolor is up to the task.