Preview: Fortaleza vs. Club Libertad – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Tuesday’s Copa Sudamericana clash between Fortaleza and Club Libertad, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Fortaleza can advance to the quarter-finals of the Copa Sudamericana for the first time with a win or draw on Tuesday when they battle Club Libertad in the second leg of that round of 16 clash at the Castelao.

At the beginning of August, Leao do Pici defeated the Paraguayans 1-0, making this a must win encounter for Libertad if they are to advance beyond this stage of the competition for the second time in three years.

Match preview

Ze Weilson in action for Fortaleza on September 10, 2022© Reuters

Over a month removed from their previous match at this tournament, Juan Pablo Vojvoda‘s men showed no signs of rust a week ago against an experienced Libertad outfit, scoring 20 minutes into the game and holding on from there.

That was the first-ever victory for this club versus a Paraguayan opponent in any competitive fixture, with Rei Leao do Brasil being knocked out of the Copa Libertadores earlier this year by another Paraguayan powerhouse in Cerro Porteno (3-1 on aggregate).

For a side that a couple of years ago was known for playing aggressively by bringing plenty of numbers forward in attack, this team have put a bigger focus on defence this year, with three clean sheets to date at the 2023 Sudamericana.

Heading home with a lead would seem like an ideal scenario for the Brazilians, however, Clube da Garotada have lost back-to-back home fixtures by a combined score of 4-0.

That being said, Fortaleza have advanced from their previous three two-legged affairs when leading after the opening match, and have never lost a Sudamericana encounter on home soil.

If they can come away with a result on Tuesday, it would be the first time this club will have ever reached the last eight of a continental tournament, as they were knocked out in the last 16 of the 2022 Copa Libertadores by Estudiantes (4-1 on aggregate).

Libertad's Oscar Cardoza celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on May 24, 2023© Reuters

For the second time in this year’s competition, Libertad will be forced to play catch-up after their seven-match unbeaten run at home in all competitions was ended by Fortaleza last week.

Being behind though may be a good omen for Daniel Garnero‘s side, who were down a goal at half-time of their opening round of 32 clash versus Tigre before scoring twice in the second 45 minutes, advancing to the last 16 for the first time since 2021.

After losing their first two away matches in all competitions to begin the month of June, Libertad have reeled off three successive road victories and have not conceded in any of those encounters.

Should this team need some inspiration on Tuesday, they can look back at what they achieved in this competition two years ago when Libertad trailed Santos 2-1 heading into the second leg of that quarter-final tie and managed to win 1-0, advancing into the semi-finals on away goals.

After capturing the 2023 Apertura campaign in Paraguay, Gumarelo Repollero are off to a hot start in the Clausura campaign, with points all five of their games, and failing to concede away from home in their last two league fixtures.

Libertad have only captured one Sudamericana encounter versus a Brasileiro Serie A opponent in Brazil, defeating Sport Recife 2-1 in 2013, only the second time this team have ever scored a goal on Brazilian soil, advancing into the last eight that year, 4-1 on aggregate.

Fortaleza Copa Sudamericana form:

Fortaleza form (all competitions):

Club Libertad Copa Sudamericana form:

Club Libertad form (all competitions):

Team News

Fortaleza coach Juan Pablo Vojvoda before the match on July 1, 2023© Reuters

Hercules will not return to the Fortaleza lineup this season after suffering an ACL injury, while Vojvoda had a very different looking starting 11 versus Libertad compared to the team that began their matchday six clash as Titi, Emanuel Britez, Caio Alexandre and Guilherme were the only players to keep their place in the opening lineup.

Ze Welison had the only goal in the opening leg of this tie, his second of this tournament, while Joao Ricardo made four stops to collect his first clean sheet at the Sudamericana this year after Fernando Miguel did not concede in their opening two group fixtures.

On Tuesday, Libertad are likely to be without Hugo Martinez, who has sore muscles, Bautista Merlini is dealing with some ruptured ligaments and Antonio Bareiro remains sidelined due to a cruciate ligament rupture.

In their previous road fixture at the Sudamericana, Alexander Barboza had the only strike in a 1-0 victory versus Tigre, with Martin Silva saving three shots for the clean sheet.

Fortaleza possible starting lineup:
Ricardo; Tinga, Britez, Titi, Pacheco; Welison, Alexandre, Crispim; Pikachu, Lucero, Guilherme

Club Libertad possible starting lineup:
Silva; Piris, Viera, Barboza, Gimenez; Caballero, Sanabria, Campuzano, Gonzalez; Cardozo, Melgarejo

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We say: Fortaleza 1-0 Club Libertad

Their style may be a little more conservative than we are used to, but there is no denying this Fortaleza squad are committed to defending and have done it effectively.

We expect them to frustrate the Paraguayans again this week and catch them on the break, a strategy which has worked out well for the Brazilians throughout this tournament.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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