Following our interview with Alvaro Recoba ahead of Nacional's last Copa Libertadores encounter, we're turning to the other side of Uruguay's great football rivalry to speak to another legendary player. Like Recoba, Toni Pacheco has played around the world, but is now a key part of the Peñarol squad, who are flying high both domestically and in the continent-wide super tournament.
Ahead of their game against Ecuadorian club Emelec, we spoke to Pacheco about his career and the Copa Libertadores. Here's what he had to say...
Peñarol have made a great start to this year's Copa Libertadores, what are your ambitions for the tournament?
'Mine are the same as that of Peñarol. With the history of this club, we should aspire to win every championship we play in.'
Who would you say are the favorites for this year's tournament?
'It's difficult to say - there are so many very good teams in the tournament. It's the most important tournament in South America, and every team that qualifies deserves to be there.'
How important is the tournament to the players and the fans? Is it bigger than the Uruguayan national league?
'It is so important, because for years Peñarol have won the Copa five times, so every time they qualify for the tournament it generates great expectations in everyone, both players and fans. But the Uruguayan league is also extremely important.'
You've been a runner up in the tournament before, what would it mean to you to win the Copa Libertadores?
'Personally, it would be great because after all the titles that I have achieved, it would be a great way to celebrate towards the end of my career.'
What kind of teams and tactics tend to succeed in the Copa Libertadores? As a knockout tournament, is it the attacking, open teams that do better?
'I think those that do best in this tournament are those that don't stick to just one tactic - they are the best teams at playing both defensive and offensive, so they can make that change if they need to.'
You've played in different countries around the world, how do you think the atmosphere in the Copa Libertadores compares to big games in Europe?
'It is different because the passion of South American fans is different to those in Europe. Not better or worse, just a different way of showing their support for the team.'
The two Uruguayan teams in the tournament obviously share a fierce rivalry, what would it mean for Peñarol to face Nacional in the Copa Libertadores?
'All national derbies between Peñarol and Nacional go beyond whatever cup they're disputing, it's so important and generates a special
adrenaline in both players and fans.'
Thanks to Toni for taking the time to speak to us about the Copa Libertadores and why it means so much to fans and players in South America.