Arsenal target Bernard could hold key for Atletico Mineiro fightback in Libertadores Cup final
Atletico badly missed Bernard, who has been linked with a possible move to Arsenal, in first-leg
Tuesday 23 July 2013
Ronaldinho is Atletico Mineiro's ace but success in the Libertadores Cup final against Olimpia on Wednesday could hang on the young shoulders of Brazil forward Bernard.
Atletico must overcome a 2-0 first-leg defeat if they are to lift South America's top club trophy for the first time and deny their Paraguayan opponents their fourth.
Brazilian media said Atletico badly missed Bernard in Asuncion as they failed to create danger from the wings.
It was reported yesterday that Arsenal are in 'advanced negotiations' over a £21m deal to bring Brazilian playmaker Bernard to the Emirates.
However, the player says until his current club's Copa Libertadores final second-leg has taken place, he does not want to discuss the potential transfer.
Atletico Mineiro, for whom the 20-year-old plays for, currently trail Olimpia 2-0 from the first leg. The second leg will be played tomorrow night.
"In a week as important as this, I don’t want to talk about it. I do not want to be rude, but my focus is on the decision," he said.
He added: "My future at Atletico from Thursday is in the hands of the board."
Sources in France suggest Bernard has already agreed a five-year contract worth £50,000-a-week after tax and will be in London on Friday for a medical.
Bernard is anxious to get on with the decider at the Mineirao, Belo Horizonte's newly-refurbished World Cup stadium.
"I always say I want the anxiety to last, as if it were the last match of my career... I'm going to give my maximum, what I can and can't (give). I have a great opportunity," Bernard told a news conference on Monday.
The 20-year-old, a Confederations Cup winner with Brazil last month, believes feelings of anxiety can be positive, saying: "I feel cold in my stomach, not only on account of the final but in all matches I feel anxiety.
"I saw Rogerio Ceni saying that when you stop feeling that cold in your stomach you've got to retire," he said referring to Sao Paulo's 40-year-old goalkeeper, a double Libertadores Cup winner.
Atletico coach Cuca had his players practising penalties during Monday's training.
The Brazilian side reached the final with a shootout victory over Newell's Old Boys of Argentina and a last-gasp penalty save by Victor got them through their quarter-final against Tijuana.
However, there is the potential for a high-scoring match with Olimpia very dangerous on the break as they proved again in their first-leg win.
Atletico and Olimpia are the highest-scoring teams in the competition. Both scored 16 goals in six group-stage matches and the Brazilians have taken their tally to 27 in the knockout rounds, against 25 by the Paraguayans.
The home side will be missing both first-choice fullbacks through suspension. Richarlyson was sent off in Asuncion and Marcos Rocha is out through accumulation of yellow cards.
Junior Cesar is expected to replace Richarlyson while Cuca fielded usual forward Luan as a wing back during Monday's practice.
Atletico Mineiro: Victor; Michel (or Luan), Leonardo Silva, Rever, Junior Cesar; Pierre, Josue, Bernard, Ronaldinho; Diego Tardelli, Jo
Olimpia: Martin Silva; Julio Manzur, Herminio Miranda, Salustiano Candia; Alejandro Silva, Wilson Pittoni, Eduardo Aranda, Matias Gimenez, Nelson Benitez; Juan Manuel Salgueiro, Fredy Bareiro
Referee: Wilmar Roldan (Colombia)
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