Copa Libertadores Preview: Loaded Slate Of Games Kicks Off With Independiente Vs. LDU Quito

The groups are all starting to take shape in the 2011 Copa Libertadores, and this week should see most of them sort themselves out further. Qualification spots are up for grabs in at least six groups, with only Group 7 being completely settled, while Group 2 is virtually settled and all others are wide open. There are no less than seven fixtures of serious importance in the competition this week, with Independiente and LDU Quito getting us started with Tuesday's only major fixture.

Independiente Vs. LDU Quito

Tuesday, 8:15 pm ET

These two teams currently sit in third and fourth place in Group 8, but they also both have a game in hand on the group's two leaders, Peñarol and Godoy Cruz. A draw does Independiente no good, and they will be as good as out with anything less than three points with a trip to Uruguay looming. If LDU Quito secure a draw on the road, they will only need a draw to advance over Godoy Cruz on the final match day, as they have a stronger goal differential than the Argentinian side.

Jaguares Chiapas Vs. Internacional

Wednesday, 6:30 pm ET

Jaguares are heavy underdogs against the Group 6 leaders and defending champions, and like Independiente, nothing less than a win will do. They have struggled since losing Danilinho and Carlos Ochoa in the transfer market, but they scored a massive win over UNAM Pumas this week, signaling that they might be turning a corner. Still, a win seems like too tough of a task.

Nacional Vs. Fluminense

Wednesday, 8:50 pm ET

One of two meaningful fixtures in Group 3, the competition's "group of death," Nacional vs. Fluminense has some potential to be an absolutely fantastic match. Nacional are at the bottom of the group, but with a win, they would shoot right back up into a qualification position. Nacional have two of the most promising youngsters on the continent in Sebastian Coates and Santiago Garcia, while Flu have a guy you might have heard of named Deco, in addition to the fantastic Dario Conca.

Santos Vs. Colo-Colo

Wednesday, 8:50 pm ET

Somehow, Santos are sitting on just two points in Group 5. They've been a serious disappointment so far, but a win over first placed Colo-Colo could change everything. The absence of playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso has been massive for Santos, but their quality is sufficient that they should have more than two points at this stage. Maybe this will be the game where Neymar proves he's worth his giant contract and 30m Euro valuation.

Club America vs. Argentinos Juniors

Wednesday, 10:50 pm ET

Why the hell is any game ever kicking off this late? In any event, this is an interesting an unpredictable match. America certainly have the deeper team and the bigger stars, but Argentinos are in great form domestically. Additionally, America could get caught looking ahead to this week's Super Clasico matchup against Chivas. If that happens, the second big fixture in Group 3 could go the way of Argentinos, sending America out of the tournament. Still, it would be surprising to see them lose at the Azteca.

Gremio Vs. Junior

Thursday, 6:15 pm ET

Before this tournament started, I couldn't have told you a think about Junior. Four games into the tournament, they're making everyone look foolish, with their striker Carlos Bacca leading the way. However, playing Gremio on the road is certainly the toughest test they've faced yet. Gremio lost 2-1 in Colombia in a competitive game, so I like Gremio to win at home and leave first in the group wide open going to the final day.

Universidad Catolica Vs. Velez Sarsfield

Thursday, 8:30 pm ET

When the competition started, most believed that Velez would win Group 4 while the two Chilean sides fought for second place, leaving Caracas behind. Amazingly, this group has turned into a very interesting and competitive one, and if Universidad Catolica can win at home on Thursday, they take the group. More realistically, I like Velez to draw. Ultimately, Velez's downfall is that they're too over-reliant on the stunning Maxi Moralez. When he's not playing well, Velez don't play well.

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