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Chapecoense set for first Copa Libertadores home match

CHAPECOENSE

Chapecoense set for first Copa Libertadores home match

Chapecoense set for first Copa Libertadores home match

JUAN BARRETO

AFP

Four months after being devastated by a tragic air crash, the Brazilian club play their maiden Libertadores home game on Thursday.

Four months after a plane crash all but wiped out Chapecoense, the Brazilian club will host a Copa Libertadores match on Thursday for the first time on another evening of high emotion.

Argentine side Lanus are the visitors to Arena Conda, in the small southern city of Chapeco, to take on a new-look home team.

Chapecoense are trying to rise from the ashes after the tragedy in late November, when the club's charter jet ran out of fuel and crashed into mountains outside Medellin, Colombia, killing 71 people.

Nineteen players and 24 club officials died in the accident, which devastated the unsung team at the height of a fairytale season.

Now, after signing 22 new players, Chapecoense are playing in their first Copa Libertadores, the premier club tournament in South America.

Chapecoense's Luiz Antonio (second left) celebrates after his goal in the Brazilians' Copa Libertadores win at Zulia FC.

Won opening clash away to Venezuelans Zulia

They are tied for the lead in Group 7 after winning their first match away against Venezuela's Zulia FC last week.

"We're counting on the city's full support because a victory at home would be a very important step forward," said goalkeeper Artur Moraes, Chapecoense's captain.

As recently as 2009, Chapecoense were languishing in Brazil's fourth-tier league.

The team rose to the first division in 2013 and were on their way to the biggest game in their history - the final of the Copa Sudamericana, the continent's second-biggest club tournament - when the tragedy struck.

Their opponents in that match, Atlético Nacional, ceded the title to Chapecoense in tribute, giving the devastated club automatic entry to the Copa Libertadores.

Head coach Jorge Almiron told sports daily Olé that the team was "pretty solid" heading into Thursday's match.

"We'll be returning home, with all that implies emotionally. A team that starts playing again after a tragedy like this one, there's going to be a lot of tension," he said.

Chapecoense drew in their first home match since the crash, against domestic rivals Palmeiras on 21 January.

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