"Win or win," reads the headline of the sports page of Brazilian publication O Globo. For Brazilian powerhouse Fluminense, there is simply no other option. Club América, on the other hand, can count on a bit more breathing room, with the Águilas sitting a fairly comfortable second in Group 4. América could even go top with a win, and would at least tie leaders Argentinos Juniors on points with a draw. The reigning champions of Brazil, however, despite having played half their games, sit last in the group with a measly two points, having failed to beat either Argentinos or Nacional at home and having fallen to América in Mexico. They can rise to third place with a win on Wednesday, but it will still be a tough task, as they will then have to finish their campaign with two away games. Whatever the result, this one promises to be an open, entertaining encounter with plenty to look forward to.
In order to win, América will have to shake off two poor domestic results, having lost two straight to Cruz Azul and Monterrey, despite fielding near full strength teams. A late consolation penalty from Ángel Reyna has been the only goal in the two mathces as a once red-hot América attack has suddenly gone cold.
On the other hand, if América appears to be struggling at the moment, all you have to do is compare their form to Fluminense's and things might even begin to look rosy. Ten days ago, Fluminense was held to a scoreless draw by hated rivals Flamengo, leading to the resignation of coach Muricy Ramalho. Under interim coach Enderson Moreira, the Tricolor fell even further, losing 0-2 to lowly Boavista at home. While word out of Brazil suggests Abel Braga will take over at the end of May, upon the expiration of his contract with Al-Jazira (UAE), results under Moreira have to improve immediately if the club is to have any chance at advancing.
The two sides have already met once in the group stages, with América triumphing 1-0 at the Estadio Azteca thanks to a 70th minute goal from Daniel Márquez, though it was hardly a memorable match. The Mexicans have also won their previous two encounters with Fluminense, a pair of friendly victories, 1-0 in 1960 and 3-0 in 1991, both in Mexico. The teams have never met on Brazilian soil before. The last time Fluminense met a Mexican team in Brazil, they beat Toluca 3-1 during their 100th anniversary celebrations in 2002. However, with an overall record of three wins, one draw and six defeats, Flu's record against Mexican teams leaves something to be desired.
Both sides are confident of winning, and have expressed their desire to win and need for maximum effort coming into the game. Moreira weighed in, saying:
A win leaves us with a chance to fight for advancement. We have the opportunity and need the support of our fans. All are there in order to help. I am comfortable doing what I have in my head. I am convinced we will have a good game.
América's Brazilian midfielder Rosinei, meanwhile, explained that his team would not shy away from attacking tactics to get a result:
We came here to win. Of course we have to greatly respect Fluminense. The two teams will play to attack. We have quality players to do so. We expect a great game and we can come out as winners.
Author's Note: These are translated from Brazilian publication O Globo using my rough Portuguese skills and a little help from Google Translate. To read the original Portuguese, click here.
Rosinei might not be too far off in his prediction, and with key defensive losses for both teams, viewers could be in for an entertaining and goal-filled encounter, a welcome change from the previous match contested by these two sides. For Fluminense, left back Carlinhos and center back Leandro Euzébio are both out injured for tonight's encounter, with Digão and Júlio César, respectively, in to replace them. For América, key defender Aquivaldo Mosquera is out injured and star goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa is in the United States with the Mexican national team, with Patricio Treviño likely to replace Mosquera and Armando Navarrete filling in for Ochoa.
Fluminense will, however, be boosted by the return of star striker Fred and playmaker Souza to the lineup, and the two, along with the likes of Dario Conca and Emerson will combinee to form a lethal attacking quartet for Fluminense. Tactically, Enderson Moreira is likely to send his team out in the 4-2-2-2 often associated with Brazil, with Edwin Valencia and Diguino playing as defensive midfielders behind Conca and Souza, with support on the flanks being provided by the full-backs.
América, despite their defensive setbacks, can count on their full complement of midfield and attacking players against Fluminense and with an international break coming up in Mexico, manager Carlos Reinoso will not hold back. They will likely set up with their usual 4-3-3-ish formation with Matías Vuoso, Ángel Reyna and Vicente Sánchez spearheading the attack, supported by the creative talents of Daniel Montenegro. Pavel Pardo and Rosinei will handle more of the dirty work in the midfield and try to relieve the pressure off the defensive line.
While the teams' defensive deficiencies might alienate the footballing purist, they will certainly make for and entertaining game. If you catch one Copa Libertadores game this week, definitely make it this one.
Want to catch Fluminense-Club América? The game kicks off at 8:50pm EDT and can be seen on FOX Deportes in the United States.