The first leg of the 2009 Copa Libertadores final is played on Wednesday night in La Plata, to a full house – tickets went on sale on Tuesday and all 40,000-plus of the home allowance had been sold out by the evening. Brazilian club Cruzeiro are the visitors to the Estadio Ciudad de La Plata as Estudiantes seek to regain the crown they last won nearly three decades ago, with current captain Juan Sebastián Verón’s dad a key player.
Cruzeiro tried one last time on Monday to get the match postponed due to ongoing fears about the seriousness of the swine flu epidemic in Argentina, but CONMEBOL stood firm (odd, given their earlier stance on the Mexican clubs in the tournament) and the Brazilians travelled to La Plata on Tuesday. The match will go ahead in the municipal stadium, and will kick off at 9:50pm (1:50am Thursday British Summer Time).
Former Argentinos Juniors and River Plate full back / wide man Juan Pablo Sorín hasn’t travelled with the Cruzeiro squad from Belo Horizonte, and nor has normal starter Heleno. The only substitute defender the Minas Gerais side arrive with is Anderson. Estudiantes’ starting lineup is still a complete unknown, but manager Alejandro Sabella will probably have Seba Verón back after the midfielder made good progress in recovering from the injury he sustained in the first leg of the semi-final against Nacional.
Cruzeiro’s likely starting XI, according to Olé on Tuesday night, is rather easier to predict because of course they’ve only got 19 players travelling with them. Ramires, the midfielder who was part of Brazil’s recent Confederations Cup-winning squad, will be playing his last matches for the club in the two legs of this final, having recently agreed to sign for Portuguese giants Benfica.
Jonathan — Anderson — Leonardo Silva — Gerson Magrão
Enrique — Marquinhos Paraná — Ramires — Wágner
Kléber —- Wellington Paulista
Substitutes will include goalkeeper Andrey; full back Jancarlos; midfielders Elicarlos, Fabinho and Bernardo, and strikers Thiago Ribeiro, Wanderley and Zé Carlos.
As with any Copa Libertadores final involving an Argentine club, you’ll be able to follow (almost) live text updates on the match here on HEGS, as well as any highlight videos I can find online after the match. Join us here on Wednesday night, when the fun begins.