It's Argentina vs. Brazil in the final of the Copa Libertadores, but with clubs of very different dimensions.
SAO PAULO (AP) – It's Argentina vs. Brazil in the final of the Copa Libertadores, but with clubs of very different dimensions.
Lanus will be playing its first Libertadores final, a giant step for the modest club from the Buenos Aires suburbs.
Gremio is from Brazil's deep south, obsessed with the Copa Libertadores, and whose culture is more of Uruguayan will power than Brazilian flair. It won it twice, the last in 1995.
''It doesn't matter that this is Lanus' first final and Gremio's fifth,'' Gremio coach Renato Portaluppi, universally known as Renato Gaucho, said before the first leg on Wednesday in Porto Alegre, Brazil. ''We all have the same chances.''
The second leg is on Nov. 29 in Buenos Aires.
Lanus, which eliminated River Plate in the semifinals, has deep roots in the Italian and Spanish immigration to Argentina a century ago.
Lanus president Nicolas Russo recalls borrowing a cement mixer from an Italian uncle to shore up the wooden bleachers at the club's stadium.
''We are like the Spanish and Italian immigrants who, to build a house, had to get together to help each other,'' Russo said in an interview in his office with The Associated Press.
Some have compared Lanus' modest roots to Leicester, which won the English Premier League in 2016.
''We're a working-class team,'' midfielder Ivan Marcone said. ''We're a humble side, a side that has been working a lot in silence. We've made a great effort and we deserve to be here.''
Like most Latin American clubs, Lanus sustains itself by selling its young talent to wealthier European teams. Examples include Guido Pizarro at Spanish club Sevilla, and Eduardo Salvio with Portugal's Benfica.
Gremio has a pedigree. Its last appearance in the final was in 2007, a two-leg loss to Buenos Aires' Boca Juniors by a 5-0 aggregate score. Fans were expecting a third title but got humiliation, instead.
''This time we are working really hard so our fans don't see anything like that again,'' Portaluppi said.
Gremio's backbone consists of four players: Goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe was a reserve player in 2007, and is arguably the best at the position in the Copa Libertadores; Pedro Geromel leads a defense that gave up only eight goals in 12 matches; midfielder Arthur could end up in the Brazil World Cup squad in Russia; and striker Luan is the best player in the tournament so far.