Betting Preview: Estudiantes v Cruzeiro (Copa Libertadores final first-leg)

Estudiantes v Cruzeiro, Copa Libertadores final first-leg, July 8, 2009

Both these sides produced assured away performances last week to reach the two-legged Copa Libertadores final and ensure a classic Argentina v Brazil clash for only the 12th time in 50 finals.

Estudiantes produced a fine result at Uruguayan side Nacional without captain and talisman Juan Sebastian Veron. Mauro Boselli was on target with a brace in front of 70,000 and the 24-year-old striker will be a real threat to Cruzeiro in both legs.

Cruzeiro also had to thank a two-goal hero for their progress to the final, with Wellington Paulista popping up with two massive strikes to see off fellow Brazilians Gremio in two games that threatened to boil over at almost any opportunity.

The Argentinean side have been in scintillating form in the Libertadores since Alejandro Sabella took over in the middle of March. Their goal difference in nine games under Sabella in the premier competition in South America currently stands at: For: 16, against 1.

Much will depend on the fitness of former Manchester United and Chelsea flop Juan Sebastian Veron, who is in such great form of late that he could well be a key figure for Diego Maradona’s Argentina at the 2010 World Cup.

The latest reports in Argentina suggest Veron will recover in time and this is a major boost for the home side that proved just what a class squad they have with a 2-1 win over River Plate on Saturday, with a number of key players missing.

Cruzeiro will be looking for some crucial away goals – against the miserly Estudiantes defence. They welcome back Kleber back to the side after he missed the semi-final second leg due to suspension. The 25-year-old striker knows where the goal is and has already claimed a brace against Estudiantes, in the 3-0 group win in February. (To prove the double edged nature of his personality, Keleber was also sent off in this game.)

Semi-final hero Wellington Paulista will also be a major danger for Estudiantes after scoring four goals in his last three games, three of which were headers. The gossip columns in France suggest Kleber could be on his way to Lyon and another goal scoring performance from Wellington Paulista could also see another Brazilian head to Europe.

Intriguingly, Estudiantes beat Cruzeiro at home 4-0 in April, to avenge their 3-0 defeat in Brazil mentioned above. Both teams have it in them to give the other a real pasting and in front of a bursting stadium in La Plata, this is set to be a clash that lives up to the final billing.

Estudiantes 10/11; Draw 9/4; Cruzeiro 13/5

101gg predicts: Estudiantes 2 – Cruzeiro 1