The knockout rounds for the 2020 Copa Libertadores commence this week with Racing Club hosting Flamengo in the first leg of their round-of-16 encounter on Wednesday at 12:30am (UK time).
The Buenos Aires-based club finished runners-up in Group F and have subsequently been paired with Group A winners and current holders of South America’s flagship trophy, Flamengo, who cantered to top spot in their respective group.
Racing Club, managed by 39-year-old Sebastian Beccacece, have been in woeful form domestically, losing their previous four matches in Argentina’s Copa de la Liga Profesional, but the one-time winners of this competition have reached the knockout rounds for the first time since 2018.
Flamengo meanwhile currently sits atop Brazil’s Serie A, with summer-appointment, Rogerio Ceni, continuing on from the good work of predecessor Jorge Jesus, who delivered the Scarlet-Black’s first Copa Libertadores for 38 years last season before returning to Benfica in August.
The reigning champions have won just one of their previous five outings, but will fancy their chances of taking a lead back to the Maracana for the return leg a week later.
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Racing Club & Flamengo‘s previous line-ups:
- Racing Club (vs Atletico Tucuman): Ibanez; Montoya, Orban, Prado, Caceres, Sanchez; Dominguez, Banega, Tanda; Alcaraz, Cvitanich*.
- Flamengo (vs Coritiba): Alves; Isla, Thuler, Pereira, Rene; Gerson, Arao, Ribeiro, De Arrascaeta; Vitinho, Henrique.
Jonatan Cristaldo and Marcelo Diaz are both currently sidelined for the hosts, while Dario Cvitanich has also joined them on the treatment tables after suffering a tear in his right adductor muscle. Captain Lisandro Lopez should lead the line for his boyhood club.
Flamengo meanwhile are without Willian Arao and Thiago Maia, but former Chelsea defender Filipe Luis and reliable goal-getter Gabriel Barbosa are both expected back, though whether Ceni risks starting his returning stars remains to be seen.
Player to watch: Bruno Henrique (Flamengo)
Bruno Henrique played a lead role last season as Flamengo lifted the Copa Libertadores, scoring six goals, including two in the semi-finals against Gremio, as well as registering six assists. The former Wolfsburg forward has carried that form over this term and is once again producing the goods in the tournament.
In the four matches the twice capped Brazilian has featured, he has netted four goals and he will be keen to lay down a marker in this match against Racing ahead of the return leg next week. Dubbed by former coach Jesus as “a complete player”, Henrique has earned the moniker “King of derbies” for his habit of producing in competitive meetings against rivals Vasco da Gama, Fluminense and Botafogo.
It’s clear Henrique is a man for the occasion and relishes these tense encounters. So, if Ceni is unable to call upon Barbosa from the off, then he will be relying heavily on the talismanic exploits of Henrique.
Scoreline prediction: Racing Club 1-2 Flamengo
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