South America preview: Copa Libertadores teams have short turnaround

(Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images)
(Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images) /

Round of 16 participants in the Copa Libertadores return to league play immediately this weekend. Let’s preview the upcoming action in South America.

We now know which eight teams will be in the quarterfinals of the Copa Libertadores after the round of 16 concluded its second leg over midweek. While only eight clubs advanced, though, everyone who participated will have to manage their rosters to deal with the inevitable fatigue of playing multiple matches in the week.

With that in mind, let’s first focus on the impact of intercontinental competition on the teams that were still alive leading up to this weekend. Here is your weekly preview of soccer action coming up throughout South America.

Which Copa Libertadores teams will have the toughest recovery?

There are really two ways to look at this question, and answering it comes down to what one chooses to privilege. On one hand, assessing the turnaround time afforded each team is one significant way to look at things.

Due more to the vagaries of scheduling for each club, there is a wide gulf between the recovery time afforded each side. On the well-rested end of the spectrum, Argentina’s Atletico Tucuman played Atletico Nacional of Colombia on Tuesday night, and they return to the field nearly six days later for an early-evening Monday match against Newell’s Old Boys in the Superliga Argentina.

They have more than 141 hours of rest between the two matches, effectively a full week in between contests. At the other end of that spectrum, Brazil’s Palmeiras has less than half the recovery time as Atletico Tucuman. Palmeiras played Chape

Racing Club is the only club that has to face the top team in their league

In the second context, the team with the toughest turnaround from Copa Libertadores play is undoubtedly Racing Club in Argentina. On Wednesday, the Avellaneda side was bounced 3-0 by River Plate at El Monumental in Buenos Aires after a 0-0 draw in the first leg. Three days after the disappointment of falling out of the tournament, Racing Club heads four hours up the Rio Parana in a clash of the two teams currently sitting at the top of the Superliga Argentina table.

The club Racing will face, Rosario Central, is the only club left in Argentina this season without a draw or a defeat through their first three matches. Central is also one of just two clubs who have not yet permitted a goal in the new campaign. After getting shut out in midweek Copa Libertadores action at River Plate, the other Argentine club without a goal allowed in Superliga play, Racing will need to find a way to break through at El Gigante de Arroyito.

Advanced metrics show a Rosario Central club that is playing stout defense and preventing opponents from generating chances. Central allows an average of just 10 shots per match, most of which are off target. Opponents have been caught offside about three times per match. They also rank 12th out of 26 Superliga teams in terms of intercepting passes.

Racing Club, meanwhile, are both the highest-scoring and the most-disciplined team in the Superliga. Racing have scored seven goals so far in three matches, one of just two clubs to average two or more scores per outing. The Avellaneda giants have also incurred 11 yellow cards to date, tied with Estudiantes for the highest mark in the league.

To prevail, Racing will need to be disciplined and refrain from committing too many infractions if they hope to break down Rosario Central’s defensive wall. The hosts will hope to stay perfect with at least one timely goal. By the end of the weekend, the race at the top of the Superliga will either be much tighter (with a Racing win) or the provincial side will extend its lead atop the table.

No. 2 and No. 3 teams square off in Ecuador and Chile this weekend

While Argentina features the match of the weekend, there are several other high-profile contests featuring teams near the top of their respective tables. The biggest outside of the Superliga Argentina will take place in Ecuador and Chile.

In Ecuador, second-place Macará and third-place Emelec will face one another in Ambato on Sunday. When these two clubs first met in the Apertura back on July 8, Marlon de Jesus got the scoring started in 53rd minute. Macara equalized in the 61st minute thanks to Leonel Enrique Quinonez Padilla, but Emelec took the lead again three minutes later on Brayan Angulo’s strike. Juan Manuel Tevez leveled the score once again in the 72nd minute, and the two clubs were forced to split the points.

With four wins and two draws from their first seven matches, Macara currently sit one point behind Barcelona SC despite a goal differential just one goal above breaking even. Emelec have been better on both ends, scoring two more goals and allowing two fewer at this point than Macara. Tied with LDU Quito and Delfín at 12 points, Emelec are in third on goal differential despite four wins and three losses. A win would put Emelec into second, or even level with Barcelona if the leaders lose to last-place River Plate.

Meanwhile, another matchup takes place a day earlier in Chile. Third-place Universidad de Concepcion host second-place Union La Calera on Saturday at Estadio Ester Roa. Neither club has ever won the Primera Division. Universidad de Concepcion came closest, finishing second in the 2007 Clausura.

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Both are going to need some help to get up to the top of the table. Can they pull it off this weekend? Stay tuned, and we will recap all the action from the weekend next Monday.