As we head into game week five of six in the group stage, Nathan Joyes is predicting some close encounters in Brazil, Peru and Venezuela, as the knockout stages draw ever closer.
"Racing Club will have to take the game to Sao Paulo, but I have been disappointed with their campaign. A last-minute equaliser away to Rentistas salvaged a point, which was followed by an unconvincing 2-1 victory over Sporting Cristal at home."
Group E, as many predicted, would be a scrap between Sao Paulo and Racing Club for the top spot and after four matches, it's unsurprising to see both on eight points apiece. Both five points clear of Rentistas, this is an important match in Brazil, with the winner likely to qualify in pole position.
These two met less than two weeks ago in Argentina, playing out a 0-0 draw in what was a tightly contested affair. Hernán Crespo's Sao Paulo side rarely threatened, in fact, they only had one shot on target the whole match, as well as only two corners. It's almost as if the Brazilians set out not to lose, and to try and take the three points in the reverse fixture.
A repeat of a draw would take the deciding of the overall positions to the final group stage, although Sao Paulo would be in the driving seat at home to Sporting Cristal, who they defeated 3-0 earlier in the campaign, and they already have a better goal difference than Racing Club.
And with this in mind, Racing Club will have to take the game to Sao Paulo, but I have been disappointed with their campaign. A last-minute equaliser away to Rentistas salvaged a point, which was followed by an unconvincing 2-1 victory over Sporting Cristal at home.
Sao Paulo have only conceded one goal in four matches, three of those matches have been away from home. Racing have also been fairly tight at the back, conceding just the two. With the importance of the three points for both sides, I'm not expecting any all-out attacking football from either side, especially in the first half.
I'm backing both teams to score no at 1.758/11 but I'm also advising the half-time result to be a draw.
As I've just discussed, Rentistas and Sporting Cristal are basically scrapping it out for third spot, which would see one of the teams qualify for the next round of the Copa Sudamericana - so there's still plenty to play for.
Rentistas are firmly in the driving seat to achieve third place, currently sitting on three points. If they avoid defeat in Peru, it's almost certain they're in. Which, is a miracle, considering they finished bottom of their domestic table after a mass exodus of players and staff due to the pandemic.
Both these sides met two weeks ago in Uruguay which finished 0-0 and despite there being plenty on the line, I'm not expecting a classic. Cristal have yet to score at home, whilst Rentistas are yet to score away. Admittedly these fixtures have come against the two group giants, but they've both proven to lack any kind of firepower when it matters.
Cristal's top goalscorer in the groups, Gonzales, has one, whilst the same is the case for Rentistas and their attacker, Gonzalez. Goals really have been at a premium.
With high altitude in their favour, the home side have a strong advantage playing over 2000m above sea level which could see their Uruguayan opponents struggle.
Either way, I can only ask myself if I can see this being a goal fest, and the answer is no. I would be recommending under 2.5 at 1.758/11, but both teams to score no represents slightly more value at 1.9720/21, so I'll take a swing at that instead in this encounter.
I'm all about Group B as we had into round five, with all four teams equally poised on six points. With just rounds to go, quite simply anything can happen. But digging a little deeper into this one, home advantage is proving to be very effective, with every team winning all their home matches, aside from today's opponents, Always Ready, who have won twice and lost once in Bolivia.
That leads nicely to today's hosts, Deportivo Táchira, who I advised would lose to Always Ready the other week. However, back on home soil, it's hard to ignore them at rather tempting odds against price - and this is why.
Táchira defeated both Internacional and Olimpia on home soil by a single goal margin. The Venezuelans even came from behind to beat the Brazilian giants, who have at least a x10 bigger budget than Táchira, to win 2-1.
Today's hosts were meant to be the whipping boys of the group according to pre-tournament predictions, and despite struggling on the road, their home form may just be good enough to see them qualify for either the next round or at least the Sudamericana - which will be some achievement.
They are also top of their domestic league, winning all four home matches and as well as their two Libertadores games at home. Bolivian sides often struggle on the road when they do not have an altitude advantage and this match is Táchira's best chance at progressing in the tournament, especially as their last game is away from home, when they travel to Paraguay to face Olimpia.
Always Ready threw away a golden chance to go top when they lost at home to Olimpia - a result many didn't see coming. This is very much a must not lose game for the Bolivian side, and Táchira will want to take full advantage of their fragility.
Their coach, Juan Tolisano, has announced he has a full squad to pick from after his team's 1-0 win at the weekend over Estudiantes Merida, which is a further positive for the Venezuelan side.
The way in which the group has gone, it's difficult for me not to put up the home team at 2.26/5, but I'll also put up a 0.5-point bet on Táchira to win by exactly one goal at 3.7511/4.
Nathan's Copa Libertadores P/L