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Real escape with hope of progress

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By ESPN Staff

Libertadores holders Inter handed tough draw

ASUNCION, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Holders Internacional were given a tricky draw for next year's South American Libertadores Cup.

The Brazilians, who beat Barcelona on Sunday to win the Club World Cup, will face Uruguay's Nacional, Emelec of Ecuador and the winners of a preliminary round tie between Velez Sarsfield (Argentina) and Danubio (Uruguay) in Group Four.

Fellow Brazilians Sao Paulo, last year's runners-up, were handed a potentially easier time in Group Two where they face unfashionable Audax Italiano of Chile, Alianza Lima of Peru and Mexico's second representatives.

Argentina's big two, River Plate and Boca Juniors, were placed in groups with potential banana skins.

River, quarter-finalists this year, will start as hot favourites alongside Chile's Colo Colo to emerge from Group Six, where they are paired with Caracas FC of Venezuela and the winners of the preliminary between Tacuary and LDU.

LDU, however, play at high altitude in Quito and reached the quarter-finals this year before losing to Internacional, Venezuelan clubs, once considered lightweights, have improved steadily over the years.

Boca face two trips to high altitude venues after being drawn with Bolivians Bolivar, who play at 3,600 metres above sea level in La Paz, and Mexico's Toluca, who play at over 2,600 metres.

Universitario or Cienciano, both of Peru, complete the group as Boca return to the fold after surprisingly missing out this year.

Thirty-eight teams will take part in the tournament, the South American equivalent of the Champions League,.

Twelve play in the preliminary knockout ties, with the winning six going into the group stage along with the other 32 teams. The top two teams in each group go into the last 16.

Mexico are not members of the South American Football Confederation but their clubs take part by invitation.