Copa Libertadores 2013: Progression not certain for Brazilian giants

The Copa Libertadores knockout stages are likely to be some of the best the competition has seen in recent years, with a number of the continent's best already through, but some of Brazil's biggest teams have yet to punch their ticket.

Most of South American football's giants have already secured their spot in the knockout round of the Libertadores. Defending champions Corinthians and Ronaldinho's Atletico Mineiro are already there, along with Boca Juniors, Velez Sarsfield and Nacional. Tijuana and Newell's Old Boys, popular dark horse picks to win the competition, have already punched their tickets as well. Five knockout stage places remain up for grabs in the final week of group stage play, and three big Brazilian sides are still fighting for their lives in the Libertadores.

Cerro Porteño vs. Deportes Tolima

Tuesday, 8:15 p.m. ET

Things could get interesting in Group 6, depending on how much Santa Fe cares about their seeding. Deportes Tolima trails Real Garcilaso for second place by three points and one goal, so any Deportes Tolima win and Real Garcilaso loss will send the Colombian side through, regardless of the margin. Cerro has been so terrible in this tournament that a win is a near certainty for Deportes Tolima, but the other game is a mystery.

Santa Fe vs. Real Garcilaso

Tuesday, 8:15 p.m. ET

Judging by their current form, Santa Fe should be able to come away with three points to win the group on 14 points and help their league mates progress, but they've actually been more impressive on the road than at home as of late. They beat Deportes Tolima on the road during the last round of the Libertadores and beat Millonarios away on the weekend, but they lost their most recent league home game to Millonarios, drew Deportes Tolima at home in the Libertadores, and only managed a 1-0 win over Cerro. In both of their road games in the Libertadores, Real Garcilaso have recorded 1-0 wins.

Barcelona vs. Nacional

Wednesday, 6:45 p.m. ET

There's not a lot to see here (or in the other Group 1 game) except for pride. Nacional and Boca Juniors have already gone through and are just fighting for first and second place in the group. Their seedings are dependent on other groups, but it wouldn't be stunning if the two sides ended up facing each other again in the 7-10 knockout stage round. The difference in the quality of their opponent shouldn't change much based on seed -- Nacional can't draw Atletico Mineiro no matter what -- so we might see less than full-strength teams from all four teams in the group.

Toluca vs. Boca Juniors

Wednesday, 6:45 p.m. ET

Watch just in case Riquelme gets a run-out. Boca only need a draw to ensure that they will not be the worst placed second place team, and even if they lose, they're unlikely to be the 16th seed in the knockout stage.

Arsenal de Sarandi vs. The Strongest

Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET

Whoever comes out of this group in second place is likely to get the pleasure of playing Atletico Mineiro again in the first knockout stage. There hasn't been a group stage rematch in the Round of 16 since 2008, when Santos FC lost their group to Cucuta Deportivo, then beat them in the knockout round. All of The Strongest, Arsenal and Sao Paulo are still alive in the group, with Arsenal needing the most help. They need to beat The Strongest, then hope that either Sao Paulo fails to win, or that they win their game by four more goals than Sao Paulo wins theirs. The Strongest can go through with a draw if Sao Paulo doesn't score two or more goals in a one-goal win or win by multiple goals. If the Bolivian side wins, they're through.

Sao Paulo vs. Atletico Mineiro

Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET

There's no reason for Atletico Mineiro to play their best team on Wednesday unless they really want to avoid playing Sao Paulo again next week. They're already the top seed in the knockout stage, and Sao Paulo are almost certain to be the 16 seed if they progress. It wouldn't be entirely stunning if Atletico Mineiro completely mailed it in, just to attempt to avoid another trip to La Paz.

Libertad vs. Tigre

Thursday, 6:45 p.m. ET

Look, a play-in game! Whoever takes second place in this group is going to be an underdog in their knockout stage game, but they won't be bothered by that on Thursday. Libertad sit on eight points and Tigre sit on six, so the only result that sends the Argentinian side through is a win. Libertad hasn't lost at home in the Libertadores, while Tigre hasn't picked up a point or a goal on the road. Libertad also hasn't lost at home this season in the league and Tigre has just two home wins in 15 domestic games since August, so a Tigre win would be a big upset.

Sporting Cristal vs. Palmeiras

Thursday, 6:45 p.m. ET

This game doesn't matter at all, except for Palmeiras' seeding. It's pretty cool that a second division team got through to the knockout stage of the Libertadores in just five games, though. Everyone give Palmeiras a round of applause and forget that they laughably got relegated last season.

Fluminense vs. Caracas FC

Thursday, 9 p.m. ET

The scheduling gods have saved the craziest games for last. All four teams are still alive in Group 8, and could all finish in any place. Fluminense currently leads the group on eight points, while Caracas have six. Gremio and Huachipato are both stuck on seven, with Gremio leading all teams on goal differential. Caracas need a win to go through, while Flu will progress with a draw. Flu has actually been very poor at home in this tournament, losing 3-0 to Gremio and drawing Huachipato 1-1 in their two home games. Caracas got crushed away to Gremio, but won their game against Huachipato. Flu's fans and board were expecting a big Libertadores run this season, so anything less than progression would be a huge disaster.

Huachipato vs. Gremio

Thursday, 9 p.m. ET

A draw is no good for Huachipato, who trail Gremio on goal differential. Regardless of the result of the other match, a draw will see them end the group in third place. Gremio seemed content to play out a 0-0 draw with Fluminense last week, knowing that they would control their own destiny in this game. Since Huachipato has lost both of their home games so far in the Libertadores, it was an understandable strategy. Huachipato has surprised many by even getting themselves into this position, and they have to be considered large underdogs, even at home.

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