Sunday, January 24, 2010

Emelec On The Horizon

With Newell's Old Boys first match of the Copa Libertadores only three days away, I still haven't learned all that much about their first round opponents, Emelec of Equador. My first worry was that the away leg would be played at altitude, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Emelec's home stadium is in Guayaquil, the largest city in Equador, and it's main port, elevation 13.2 feet (4 meters) above sea level.

Emelec has an all foreign coaching staff, with new Argentine head coach Jorge Luis Sampaoli heading the list. Uruguayan Youth Coach Juan Ramon Silva is the only member of the staff who isn't from Argentina. In theory this could give them a bit of an edge, as they will be better prepared to play against an Argentine opponent.

There are also three players on the roster from Argentina, forwards Hernán Peirone (aquired from San Lorenzo,) Santiago Biglieri (on loan from Lanús,) and a former Lepra, midfielder Pablo Pérez. Both Peirone and Pérez were not impressive in their showing for Emelec, and there was talk that they would be released before the 2010 season kicked off. Sampaoli has reinvested some confidence in the two, and even took to experimenting, with Pérez being converted from an attacking midfielder to a right sided wing back. Biglieri, on the other hand, has just arrived, but considering that he only managed 13 goals while playing 99 matches for Lanús does not cause much concern.

On Newell's side it seem there is little pressure going into the Copa. From what I understand the focus will be on the domestic campaign. This, in the long run, should be a good thing. It's very doubtful that this team could win the Copa this year, and better to focus on maintaining a high position in the league so that, with luck, a return to the Libertadores in 2011 will be with in reach.

Still, I expect Newell's to make it past Emelec and on to the group stage. We will certainly know more after Wednesday's match. If anyone watches the match, please let me know your impressions of the game, as I will be trapped at work, trying to make my rent.

Also, please take the time to check out the new poll. While doing so, please try to vote with your head, not your heart. I know that isn't always an easy thing to do, but sometimes it's what we need to do.

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