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Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge

50-50 Challenge
By ESPN Staff

S.America preview: Paraguay handed boost

Paraguay strikers Roque Santa Cruz and Salvador Cabanas have handed a boost to coach Gerardo Martino by declaring themselves fit for the World Cup qualifier against Venezuela on Tuesday.

Both players missed Saturday's 1-1 draw in Argentina with injuries but are expected to spearhead the attack at the Estadio Defensores del Chaco.

Santa Cruz is confident that he has fully recovered from an Achilles tendon problem.

"I'm very well, training normally and I think I will play the next match without any problem," the Blackburn forward said.

"Venezuela are a very difficult team to beat and we need to be focused on our goal. We'll pressure them as we did against Colombia here."

Cabanas remains a slight doubt with a thigh injury but believes he will feature on Tuesday as Paraguay look to maintain their lead at the top of the qualifying table.

"I am working at around 80%," said the America attacker. "And on Monday we'll do some checks to see if I can play."

The pair's fitness poses even more of a problem to their opponents and Venezuela coach Cesar Farias is well aware of the difficulty of the task his side faces.

"We know they (Paraguay) can take advantage of even the most minor mistake of their rivals. They pressure a lot.

"We are playing a high-risk match against a team that will have a lot of people cheering for them at the stadium. We'll try to remain stable, something we didn't achieve against Peru."

Paraguay lead the South American Qualifying Zone on 14 points, seven above Venezuela and just two ahead of Argentina, who travel to Peru on Wednesday.

Argentina coach Alfio Basile will have to make do without injured goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri, and suspended duo Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez but Peru will not be expecting any easier a game.

"We look up to Argentina," said midfielder Nolberto Solano. "We won't deny it. When you want to progress, you watch the best.

"But I want to beat Argentina. You won't do that often. We must go for the win but with caution."

Argentina will be looking to maintain their push towards the the top of the table and, after doing well with 10 men on Saturday, they are confident of taking all the points.

Juan Roman Riquelme has called for his side to display the same spirit they showed in the second half of the Paraguay match.

"We improved a lot in that period, we equalised and deserved to win because we created a lot of chances even with 10 men," he said. "Now, it's time to keep working to see if we can beat Peru."

Brazil are level with Argentina in the table on 12 points thanks to their 3-0 win at Chile and are now preparing to take on Bolivia on Wednesday.

Robinho has called on the fans to make it a full house the Estadio Joao Havelange.

Manchester City's recent signing said: "Fans must be there. We want to see the stadium crowded. Our families will be there and we hope we can do our best."

Chile, meanwhile, take on Colombia, who will be looking to overcome their disappointment at losing their unbeaten record over Uruguay.

"We must put the Uruguay game behind," Colombia forward Hugo Rodallega said. "We cannot do anything. We have to focus on Chile and try to surprise them on the attack, take more risks."

Finally in Montevideo, fourth-placed Uruguay challenge Ecuador.

Uruguay are in buoyant mood after beating Colombia 1-0 for the very first time in the World Cup qualifiers and goalscorer Sebastian Eguren said: "We must make the three points we gained in Colombia worthy by beating Ecuador on Wednesday.

"If not, it's worthless."

Ecuador will be without Neicer Reasco, who broke his left leg during the 3-1 win over Bolivia at the weekend.


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