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Copa Sudamericana Semifinal Preview: Cerro Porteno v. Atletico Nacional

Atletico Nacional will battle Cerro Porteno for a spot in the Copa Sudamericana Final
Juninho (L) of Brazil's Coritiba, struggles for the ball with Orlando Berrio (R) from Colombia's Atletico Nacional during a Copa Sudamericana football match at the Couto Pereira stadium in Curitiba, Brazil, on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Heuler Andrey (Photo credit should read HEULER ANDREY/AFP/Getty Images)

CONMEBOL is quite possibly on the verge of history.

If Atletico Nacional can win the 2016 Copa Sudamericana, it would become the first team to win both of South America’s major tournaments in one season.

Imagine that, if for some reason, Barcelona was allowed to play in and won both the Champions League and the Europa League in the same season.

Thus is the magic that is taking place in Medellin.

Its opponents, Cerro Porteno, are trying to create a bit of history of its own. The Paraguayan giants are often thought of as one of the best teams in South America to never win a continental  title.

El Ciclon has been to the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores on six separate occasions and are back in the semis of the Copa Sudamericana for just the second time.

Past failures will be weighing heavily on the shoulders of the 11 men who will make their way out onto the field at the Estadio Defensores del Chaco in Asuncion.

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Playing against Colombian opposition will be nothing new. The Paraguayan outfit dispatched of Santa Fe in the round of 16 before brushing aside Atletico Nacional’s eternal rivals, Independiente Medellin in the quarter finals.

Cerro Porteno held on for a 0-0 draw in the first leg, but took care of business at home with a 2-0 victory in the return.

22-year-old Ceclio Dominguez scored both goals. The Paraguayan international struck just after the half-hour mark before making sure of his sides progression from the spot in the 72nd minute.

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Dominguez is now tied for the second most goals in the tournament with San Lorenzo’s Nicolas Blandi.

Cerro Porteno has yet to lose at home in the tournament, but Atletico Nacional has yet to lose away.

The reigning Copa Libertadores champions 1-3-0 in away legs, setting themselves up for the knockout blow at the Estadio Atanasio Girardot.

This run of away form consisted of an impressive 5-0 win over Deportivo Municipal. A 1-1 draw against Bolivar in the dizzying heights of La Paz. A 1-1 draw against another Paraguayan side in Sol de America and yet another 1-1 draw in the semis against Coritiba.

On each occasion, the Colombian outfit not only avoided defeat, but scored an all important away goal.

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“We love to play, battle against the adversity and we have what it takes to play in opposing fields.” Atletico Nacional forward Orlando Berrio told the club’s official website.

“Cerro is very strong, they’ll take full advantage of their home field and bring an all-out assault to beat us from the start and score the most goals but we’re going to play them straight up and show the quality Nacional brings to every pitch.”

“The idea is not to lose,” Berrio concluded. “This will be very important to determine the finalist on our turf, our crowd and that’s what we’ll consign to.”

Miguel Borja is the man Atletico Nacional are leaning on to lead them to glory. Borja recorded a hat-trick in the 3-1 second leg victory over Coritiba to take his tally six for the tournament and to the top of the charts in the race for the Golden Boot.

The three goals against Coritiba means that Borja has now scored 11 in his last 11 CONMEBOL matches. This is the stuff of legends in a season that is on the verge of becoming legendary.

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After spending his formative years with Cortulua and bouncing around Colombia and Italy with Livorno on various loan spells, the Colombian U-23 international has had a sensational year in Medellin. Surely Jose Peckerman and European clubs have taken notice.

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Borja and Atletico Nacional face a very tough opening leg, but if they can steal something Tuesday night, then the bookies will heavily favor the Colombians to reach yet another final.

The first leg takes place tonight in Asuncion. The return leg in Medellin will not be until November 24.

The winner will face either San Lorenzo or Chapecoense in the final which will take place over two legs on November 30 and December 7th.

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