SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.
The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.
Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.
Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.
The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.
Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.
After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.
If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.
Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.
The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.