MONTEVIDEO – Penarol forward Alejandro Martinuccio is happy to play the role of underdog ahead of the first leg of the Copa Libertadores final against Santos in Montevideo tonight.
Brazilian side Santos is strong favorite and a number of its players have already spoken confidently about its chances of ending its 38-year wait to lift the trophy for a third time.
Penarol has, however, defied the odds to reach the final after upsetting Velez Sarsfield in the semi-finals and, with its own bid for a sixth crown within touching distance, Martinuccio revealed his team-mates were content to let its rival hog the pre-match limelight.
"We try not to speak too much in the preview to the match," he said.
"When we were in Argentina, the Velez Sarsfield players said they were sure that they would beat us. If the Santos players say they are champion, we'll let them talk.
"We have never been the favourite team on paper and yet we are playing the finals. In this tie, we are not either.
"The two best teams in America are still playing the tournament and one of those two teams is Penarol. We are happy about that."
Penarol's hopes of claiming a result at the Estadio Centenario should be boosted with Santos set to be weakened by the absence of four players.
Captain Edu Dracena is suspended after he was sent off in the second leg of the semi-final win over Cerro Porteno, while injury rules out midfielder Paulo-Henrique Ganso and defensive duo Leo and Jonathan.
Santos manager Muricy Ramalho is set to draft in tall defender Bruno Rodrigo to replace Dracena as he aims to combat the aerial threat of Penarol striker Juan Manuel Olivera.
"Bruno Rodrigo jumps well and they have a tall attacker so we need to think about all the details," Ramalho said.
"Penarol is a very dangerous team. It is strong, tough and tactically solid."