By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Carioca clubs Flamengo and Botafogo return to Copa Libertadores action this week after suffering mixed fortunes in the first round. Tonight (Wednesday) Flamengo host Ecuadrian club Emelec at the Maracanã Stadium, while Botafogo travel to Chile to take on Union Española.
In last week’s opening round of the group stage, Flamengo came unstuck away to Mexican side Léon, losing 2-1. Botafogo meanwhile continued their good form under new coach Eduardo Hungaro with a comfortable 2-0 win over Argentine outfit San Lorenzo.
Both sides will go into this week’s clashes brimming with confidence following excellent displays in the Campeonato Carioca, the Rio de Janeiro state championship. Flamengo went three points clear at the top of the table on Saturday with a 3-0 win over Resende.
Fla coach Jayme de Almeida said the result would give the team confidence going into the match with Emelec. “The result gives us force for Wednesday. […] It is not going to be easy, but the team played in a way we like to see. Not a lot will change for Wednesday,” he said.
Amaral, who was sent off against Léon, will be suspended for tonight’s encounter. Muralha, who played on Saturday against Resende, will take his place in midfield. Flamengo will also be meeting an in-form side in Emelec, this past weekend the club beat Barcelona de Guayaquil 2-1 in a derby.
Botafogo’s result was even more emphatic. Fielding an entire reserve side the Glorioso easily dispatched Fluminense by the same 3-0 scoreline. Of the side’s usual starters only Gabriel, Jorge Wagner and Nicolas Lodeiro entered the field during the second half, leaving the team fresh for tonight’s challenge.
Yet coach Eduardo Hungaro publicly asked his players to not be overconfident and lose focus as the players prepared to fly to Chile on Monday afternoon. “We have to keep our feet on the ground because we have another challenge in another competition. We cannot celebrate too much. But we have a special, committed group,” Hungaro said.
Their opponents, Union Española, fell at the weekend in the Chilean championship. Also fielding a reserve side with one eye on Botafogo, Española lost 3-1 at home to Everton. The Chilean club have just nine points from eight games and find themselves in the middle of their national league.
In the Libertadores they drew their first game, against Independiente del Valle, and have one point. Botafogo top Group 2 but play their next two matches away from home. After facing Union they travel to Ecuador to play Independiente del Valle.
Of the six Brazilians in the 2014 Copa Libertadores, four got off to a winning start. Aside from Botafogo, Atlético-PR beat Bolivia’s The Strongest 1-0. The match was also marked for the return of a former Carioca idol, Adriano, to the pitch for the first time in two years. At 32 years old, the former Seleção striker is searching for his first Libertadores title.
Atlético-MG won away to Zamora of Venezuela and Grêmio won a tough game away to Nacional of Uruguay. Meanwhile, current Brazilian champions Cruzeiro lost 2-1 away to Real Garciloso and currently occupy bottom place in the group.
Copa Libertadores Round 2 Ties Featuring Brazilian Teams:
Vélez Sarsfield (Argentina) vs. Atlético-PR
Independiente del Valle (Ecuador) vs. Botafogo
Atlético-MG vs. Santa Fé (Colombia)
Cruzeiro vs. Universidade de Chile (Chile)
Grêmio vs. Nacional de Medellin (Colombia)
Flamengo vs. Emelec (Ecuador)