Miniero, Sao Paulo clash in Copa Libertadores

Last Updated: Feb 13, 2013, 08:51 AM IST

Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian rivals Atletico Mineiro and Sao Paulo are expected to provide the highlight of the opening week of this year`s Copa Libertadores group stage when they clash at Atletico`s Estadio Independencia in Belo Horizonte Wednesday.

Both clubs are laden with star quality and are considered by most pundits as leading contenders to win South America`s most prized club trophy in 2013.

While Sao Paulo have lost 20-year-old winger Lucas Moura to Paris-Saint Germain since winning last year`s Copa Sudamericana, they have been bolstered by the additions of 2002 World Cup-winning centre-back Lucio and former Santos playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso.

Their squad also boasts prolific striker Luis Fabiano and ageless goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni, who at 40 is still the team`s designated free-kick and penalty taker.

They face an Atletico Mineiro outfit which has arguably been even busier in the off-season transfer market.

Among the new arrivals are one-time Brazil striker Diego Tardelli from Qatar`s Al-Gharafa as well as former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva.

The duo adds class to a squad already comprising two-time FIFA world player of the year Ronaldinho and emerging midfield star Bernard.

Tardelli, who has returned for a second stint with the club he represented from 2009 to 2011, is confident of developing a quick on-field rapport with Ronaldinho, despite having only arrived at the club last week.

"It`s an honour to be playing with Ronaldinho, I`m a fan and have always followed him closely," the 27-year-old said.

"Now I`m playing alongside him. I hope we can build a good understanding on the pitch. I don`t believe it will be difficult because he is intelligent and I also know how to think on the pitch."

Among other opening-week fixtures, reigning Argentine champions Velez Sarsfield are away to Ecuador`s Emelec Tuesday, Boca Juniors host Mexico`s Toluca Wednesday while Brazil`s Gremio, coached by former Real Madrid boss Vanderlei Luxemburgo, are at home to Chile`s Huachipato Thursday.