THE second legs of the Copa Sudamericano semi-finals take place this midweek. We got Daily Mirror journalist and South American football expert Ed Malyon (@eaamalyon) to give us his best bets. The opening match is below.
Sao Paulo v Atletico Nacional | Thursday 00:00 | Bet365 TV
The Colombian side Atletico Nacional take a narrow 1-0 lead to the Morumbi stadium for a game that promises much, but ultimately hosts São Paulo are strong 4/7 favourites (Bet365) with reason.
Cruzeiro may have romped to a league title this week on the domestic scene – as has been inevitable for some time – but the Tricolor can legitimately wonder if they’d have been in the picture had it not been for continental commitments.
As it was, they progressed through the rounds and now find themselves in the semi-finals, fully focused on trying to win a second Copa Sudamericana in three years.
In their possession are the fantastic four – a quad-pronged attack that could claim to be one of the best ever assembled in South American club football. Certainly in recent memory.
Pulling the strings is Paulo Henrique Ganso, once the man providing Neymar’s bullets at Santos and now a player that has had to recover from the brink of a career wasted. Languid and talented, Ganso probes and prods at holes in the defence and if he needs help in that then there’s the small matter of former Ballon d’Or winner Kaka.
Together they support a frontline containing arguably Brazil’s best number 9 of the current decade, Luis Fabiano, and one of the best forwards to leave the country in recent years, Alexandre Pato.
Regrettably, Pato never fulfilled his immense potential after departing for Milan as a teenager but he still has a lot to offer and, twinned with a pure centre-forward like Luis Fabiano he poses a threat once more.
As attacking fours go, that is pretty strong. And you can add former Lyon winger Michel Bastos to that, a well as Denilson – who may have flopped at Arsenal but is currently on he brink of a Brazil recall.
This is a seriously strong squad for any CONMEBOL competition, and for all Atletico Nacional’s qualities on the simplest of levels they simply can’t compare. Three of that four were rested at the weekend, with Pato starting but being withdrawn at half-time.
Atletico Nacional were without top scorer and talisman Juan Pablo Angel for the first leg and instead must content themselves with Jonathan Copete – their second-top scorer with just three goals all season.
For all his talents, Copete doesn’t score enough but Nacional’s forwards don’t generally need to. Their strong backline means that their games generally don’t see much goalmouth action. Seven of their last ten games have ended 1-0 either way, just one of those went over 2.5 goals.
What we can expect tonight is a tight game, but one where the star-studded São Paulo team come out on top. Correct score betting looks a good way to play this, with a Dutching of the 1-0 and 2-0 scorelines still turning up a friendly enough price.
And if you fancy an unusual punt, then back goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni in the goalscorer markets. He takes penalties and sometimes free kicks, and the club are looking to win this tropy for him as he approaches retirement next month. The 41-year-old has over 100 career goals.