La Volpe makes Velez debut in Libertadores

January 29, 2007

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Former Mexico coach Ricardo La Volpe makes his official debut with Velez Sarsfield when the Argentines host Uruguay's Danubio in the Libertadores Cup this week.

Santos begin their campaign with a visit to Blooming of Bolivia.

La Volpe, who led Mexico to the second round at last year's World Cup, joined Velez after a difficult four months with Boca Juniors, returning to Argentina following a 26-year stint in Mexican football.

The gruff former goalkeeper resigned at Boca in December after his team, needing one point from their last two games to win the Argentine Apertura championship, lost them both and were then beaten by Estudiantes in a playoff.

He has since headed for the quieter waters of Velez, a team where expectations are lower and the pressure considerably less.

Velez, the 1994 winners, host their modest opponents in a preliminary round first-leg tie on Tuesday night.

The eventual winners go into Group Four along with defending champions Internacional, Nacional of Uruguay and Ecuador's Emelec.

Santos, who are attempting to win the title for the first time since the Pele-inspired team which lifted the trophy in 1962 and 1963, travel to lowland Santa Cruz to face Blooming.

Coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo is also eager to add the Libertadores to his curriculum which includes five Brazilian championships and the Copa America.

The Fish, who last year repatriated former Bayern Munich midfielder Ze Roberto, have made an excellent start to the 2007 season, winning their first five games in the Paulista championship.

Blooming, coached by former Bolivia forward Alvaro Pena, are looking on the match as a dream tie.

A place in Group Eight is at stake alongside Gimnasia-La Plata (Argentina), Deportivo Pasto (Colombia) and Defensor Sporting (Uruguay)

In other ties, Deportivo Tachira (Venezuela) host Deportes Tolima (Colombia) on Tuesday while Tacuary (Paraguay) face LDU (Ecuador) and Cobreloa (Chile) host Parana (Brazil), both on Thursday.

Cobreloa thumped Antofagasta 7-1 in a Chilean championship match on Sunday and could prove tough opponents for Parana, who have dismantled the team which finished fifth in last year's Brazilian championship.

There is also one second leg tie in which Mexico's America travel to Peru to defend an impressive 5-0 lead in Lima on Wednesday.