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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

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

Racing Club, Independiente showcase the best, worst of Argentine football

Diego Milito
Racing Club's Diego Milito applauds the home fans during his side's second leg match against Independiente.

On Sunday, two Argentine clubs had one place left to fight for in the 2016 version of the Copa Libertadores, South America's equivalent of the Champions League -- and the dispute for it could hardly have been more evocative.

That final slot would end up going either Independiente or Racing Club, the neighbours and rivals from Avellaneda, the working class district just across the River Riachuelo from Buenos Aires city. These two teams have tradition in spades, and their stadiums are just a few hundred...

 By Tim Vickery

Guarani fairy tale continues after surviving Racing gut check

After taking down Racing, Paraguay's Guarani will now face Argentine giants River Plate in the Copa Libertadores semifinals.
After taking down Racing, Paraguay's Guarani will now face Argentine giants River Plate in the Copa Libertadores semifinals.

As the FIFA scandal rolls on, the mind-boggling sums alleged to have changed hands in bribes might be seen as a perverse tribute to the power of the game. The heart of the matter appears to lie in the transaction of TV rights and marketing. If companies can afford to pay out on the level stated and still make a profit, it is surely an indication that the product has a huge appeal.

Last Thursday night gave a hint as to why that might be the case. The final place was being filled in the semifinals...

 By PA Sport

Guarani draw with Racing Club and advance to Copa Libertadores semis

Paraguay's Guarani midfielder Marcelo Palau celebrates after the final whistle as his team advances in the Copa Libertadores.

Paraguay's Guarani drew 0-0 at Argentinian giants Racing Club on Thursday, securing a Copa Libertadores' semifinal in the process thanks to a 1-0 aggregate win.

Racing, the champions of Argentina, needed to score, and spent most of the first half creating and wasting chances.

A red card for keeper Sebastian Saja just before the break hamstrung them, though, even if replacement stopper Nelson Ibanez did keep out Julian Benitez's penalty.

After that Guarani dug in and progressed.

"This was the best...