Preview: Atletico Mineiro vs. Caracas – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Tuesday’s Copa Libertadores clash between Atletico Mineiro and Caracas, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Already assured of a place in the Copa Libertadores knockout rounds, Atletico Mineiro welcome Caracas to Arena MRV for their closing Group G fixture on Tuesday evening.

While the Brazilian outfit need just a point to seal top spot, their Venezuelan counterparts have just one point to their name and have been condemned to an early exit.

Match preview

Atletico Mineiro's Hulk celebrates after Paulinho scores their first goal on August 13, 2023© Reuters

With former Barcelona centre-back Gabriel Milito in the manager’s chair, Atletico Mineiro have enjoyed a near-flawless Copa Libertadores group-stage campaign and will be competing in the knockout phase of South America’s premier tournament for the fourth year running.

From a possible 15 points against Caracas, Penarol and Rosario Central, Tuesday’s hosts have accrued 12 to ensure their place in the last 16 with two games to spare; they prevailed in each of their first four battles before a largely inconsequential 2-0 loss to Penarol last time out.

That reverse will not impact Mineiro’s top-two standing, and they boast a three-point buffer over Penarol at the summit, so in spite of their slightly inferior goal difference, Milito’s men only require a draw on the final matchday to confirm their status as Group G winners.

However, after enjoying a solid streak of 12 matches without defeat across all competitions, Mineiro have fallen into a brief rut, following up their 2-0 Penarol loss with a 1-0 Copa do Brasil loss to Sport Recife, but their 2-0 success in the first leg of that third-round tie saved their bacon.

Furthermore, the three-time Brazilian champions have been irrepressible on their own patch of late, triumphing in six of their last eight contests in front of the home crowd – including each of their last three – and Tuesday’s contest is certainly a foregone conclusion on paper.

While Mineiro are waiting to learn the fate of their last-16 opponents, a doomed Caracas outfit are simply out to restore a small sense of pride at Arena MRV, having failed to keep pace with the big boys throughout their short-lived Libertadores campaign.

Henry Melendez‘s side have accrued just one point from a possible 15 to sit rock bottom of the four-team section – only Cobresal and Deportivo Tachira have performed as badly in the continent’s premier tournament – and Tuesday’s game will bring the curtain down on their Libertadores campaign.

A 4-1 loss to Rosario Central on matchday five saw Caracas fall six points behind the Argentinian outfit, thereby extinguishing their slim hopes of redemption in the Copa Sudamericana, and the 12-time Venezuelan champions may have forgotten what winning feels like amid their abysmal slump.

Indeed, Caracas are now without a single victory in their last 16 matches across all competitions, plunging to 11th in the 14-team Venezuelan top-flight table as a result, and they are statistically the worst defensive unit in the 2023-24 Copa Libertadores with 15 goals conceded.

Four of those strikes came in a 4-1 loss to Mineiro on home soil in April, which marked the first-ever competitive meeting between the two clubs, and the Caracas faithful should not be holding out hope of an improved showing on Brazilian territory.

Atletico Mineiro Copa Libertadores form:

Atletico Mineiro form (all competitions):

Caracas Copa Libertadores form:

Caracas form (all competitions):

Team News

Hulk celebrates scoring for Atletico Mineiro on October 1, 2022© Reuters

Mineiro’s cause against Penarol was not helped by a first-half thigh injury to midfielder Otavio, who was forced to miss the Copa do Brasil defeat to Recife as a result and is not expected to be back at Milito’s disposal here either.

Rubens (knee) and Paulo Vitor (ankle) are keeping Otavio company in the treatment room, but the most notable absence from the Sport Recife reverse was that of Hulk, who had previously seen out the full 90 against Penarol in the Libertadores.

The 37-year-old was reportedly absent from the ranks due to personal reasons and should therefore return to the tip of the attack on Tuesday, forcing Matias Zaracho – who sustained a knock last time out – back down to the bench in the process.

Meanwhile, Caracas have not had to juggle domestic and continental commitments for a few weeks now, but Melendez may be forced into an attacking alteration due to the fact that Manuel Sulbaran came off with a knock in the loss to Rosario.

Ender Echenique – the man who replaced his stricken colleague – bagged his side’s consolation on the evening and is a like-for-like swap in attack, while Wuilker Farinez, formerly of Ligue 1 high-flyers Lens, guards the posts in goal.

Atletico Mineiro possible starting lineup:
Everson; Battaglia, Jemerson, Fuchs; Mariano, Franco, Gomes, Arana; Vargas, Hulk, Paulinho

Caracas possible starting lineup:
Farinez; La Mantia, Tamayo, Quijada; Casiani, Padilla, Ortega, Manrique; Echenique, Pernia, Perez

SM words green background

We say: Atletico Mineiro 3-0 Caracas

The shackles could come off Caracas knowing that nothing they can do on Tuesday will affect their Copa Libertadores fate, and their hosts do not arrive into the final matchweek with the wind in their sails.

However, facing the leakiest defence in the competition is surely a recipe for success for the Brazilian giants, who should top the group and return to victorious ways in ruthless fashion.

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

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