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Gignac's gruesome foot

The Toe Poke
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River PlateRiver Plate
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 By Tim Vickery

Sao Paulo, Racing favourites to progress to Libertadores group phase

Bruno & Alejandro Hohberg
Bruno, left, vies for the ball against Alejandro Hohberg in Sao Paulo's first leg clash with Cesar Vallejo.

The field of 38 clubs in this year's Copa Libertadores, South America's equivalent of the Champions League, contains a grand total of 15 former winners. Two of them, though, have to sweat through the qualifying round, which kicked off last week and concludes this, before they can take their place in the group stage

One of them, Sao Paulo of Brazil, will feel that they have a foot and a half in the next phase. In last Wednesday's first leg, they drew 1-1 away to Cesar Vallejo of Peru.

The result,...

 By Tim Vickery

South American clubs seize on CONMEBOL weakness in Copa Lib

New CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez is already feeling the heat from clubs in the Copa Libertadores.

CONMEBOL, the South American Confederation, proudly announced recently that they were increasing the money paid to teams competing in the Copa Libertadores, the continent's Champions League equivalent. Instead of $300,000, the clubs would now receive $600,000 for each game in the group stage. But this was no spontaneous act of generosity -- the prize money has been doubled as a consequence of pressure from the clubs... and it still might not be enough.

A league of South American...

 By Tim Vickery

Edgardo Bauza, Facundo Sava face stiff Copa Libertadores tests

Facundo Sava
Facundo Sava will make his competitive debut as Racing coach on Wednesday against Liga MX side Puebla.

It is going to be a cruel summer for six teams in South America. The qualifying round of the Copa Libertadores, the continent's Champions League equivalent, kicks off on Tuesday and 12 sides will be reduced to six in the group phase.

The first legs are played this week, with the return games taking place next week -- which means that before mid-February, while Carnaval is still going on, the losing six will already have bowed out of the continent's main club event.

One tie leaps out as the outstanding...

 By Tim Vickery

Chilean clubs hoping to turn around Copa Libertadores disappointment

Universidad de Chile are hoping to make an impact in the Copa Lib but the signs aren't encouraging.

In South America, the ball is rolling once more in competitive action. The opening round of the Chilean championship got underway on Friday and comes to a close on Monday. In comparison with recent years, January 15 is a relatively late start date for Chile -- even so, the season is underway before anywhere else on the continent, where many domestic campaigns only get started in February.

In theory this should give Chile's clubs an advantage in the Copa Libertadores, at least in the early stages....

 By Tim Vickery

What the Copa Libertadores 2016 draw reveals about South America

FC Barcelona claimed the FIFA Club World Cup in convincing fashion with a goal from Lionel Messi and a brace from Luis Suarez.

After the pomp and ceremony, the presentations and tributes and the customary verbosity, the draw took place on Tuesday night for the 2016 Copa Libertadores, South America's equivalent of the Champions League.

Nowadays the ceremony takes place at the end of the year, after the domestic seasons have come to a close. Before, it took place a few weeks earlier in the year. The change has one advantage, and one disadvantage.

The pro is that the identity of all the 38 competing teams has been revealed....