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Copa Libertadores Preview: Gremio eye commanding gap

Gremio could open up a handy lead in Group 6 of the Copa Libertadores if they can overcome Argentina’s Newell’s Old Boys on Wednesday.

The Brazilian club lead their group by three points heading into the fourth matchday of the South American continental competition and could stretch that to six with a win in Argentina, if Colombia’s Atletico Nacional also lose to Nacional in Uruguay.

But Gremio will know they face a tough task in overcoming Argentina’s reigning Torneo Final champions, as Newell’s held the Porto Alegre club to a 0-0 draw in Brazil last week.

Enderson Moreira’s Gremio top Group 6 with seven points, three ahead of Newell’s and Atletico Nacional, while Nacional have just one point.

Gremio have not conceded in the Copa Libertadores group stage so far but also failed to score against Newell’s on matchday three.

After a fairly even first half, Gremio pushed hard after the break but Ze Roberto, Hernan Barcos and Para were all unable to beat Newell’s goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman.

Moreira will no doubt want more from Ramiro when his side travels to Argentina as the 20-year-old attacking midfielder was Gremio’s best player in their opening two matches.

Ramiro set up Gremio’s winner in their 1-0 victory at Nacional, while he also registered a goal and an assist in his team’s 3-0 triumph over Atletico Nacional on matchday two.

Top spot will be on the line in Group 1 this week with leaders The Strongest travelling to second-placed Velez Sarsfield on Tuesday.

Both clubs have six points from three games, as do third-placed Atletico Paranaense of Brazil, who host Peru’s Universitario on Thursday.

The Strongest defeated Velez 2-0 last week with a brace from Pablo Escobar but the Bolivian outfit will undoubtedly find it more difficult in Argentina as they do not travel well traditionally.

Halfway through the group stage, Group 2 is the tightest with all four clubs within a point of each other.

Bottom club Union Espanola of Chile have three points from three draws but could move top of the group if they win their home game over Argentina’s San Lorenzo on Thursday.

San Lorenzo have four points after being held 1-1 at home by Union last week but the Argentine club only trail Brazil’s Botafogo and Independiente del Valle of Ecuador on goal difference.

Botafogo lost 2-1 in Ecuador last week but could get their revenge on Tuesday when they welcome Independiente to Rio de Janeiro.

In Group 3, leaders Deportivo Cali travel to Lanus and Cerro Porteno host O’Higgins, while in Group 4 Santa Fe welcome Zamora to Colombia and Atletico Mineiro face Nacional Asuncion.

Real Garcilaso will hope to bounce back from two straight defeats in Group 5 when they travel to Universidad de Chile, while Cruzeiro will take on leaders Defensor Sporting, as Bolivar clash with Flamengo and Leon host Emelec in Group 7.

In Group 8, Santos Laguna are set to play Deportivo Anzoategui and Penarol line up against Arsenal.

Sun 16 March, 2014
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