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Soccer-Bans weaken Nacional for Libertadores Cup start

Reuters

Jan 27 (Reuters) - Uruguay's Nacional, three times South American champions, will be missing five banned players when they meet Oriente Petrolero in the first leg of their Libertadores Cup qualifying tie in Bolivia on Tuesday.

A two-month ban on the five Nacional players for their part in a brawl during a mid-season friendly against arch-rivals Penarol last week was handed down by a civil court and Nacional had hoped it would be invalid playing outside the country.

But prosecutor Gustavo Zubia, who wanted jail terms for the five Nacional players and four of Penarol, appealed against them being allowed to leave the country while serving the ban and a decision on this will not be made until after Tuesday's match.

"The five were going to travel to Bolivia and some were going to be first choice, but the biggest complication will be in the coming months," coach Gerardo Pelusso reporters before flying with his squad to Santa Cruz de la Sierra on Sunday.

"If we get past the first phase, we'll have a lot of matches in the local championship and the Libertadores and we need rotation," Pelusso said as he contemplated being five players short until March 23.

Turning his mind to his Bolivian opponents, Pelusso said: "I know all I need to about Oriente, their movements during the transfer window, their preparations... (Their coach Tabare Silva) will put all his meat on the grill and that's fine because the Cup is very important."

With four players serving the two-month ban, five times Libertadores Cup winners Penarol, who qualified directly for the group phase which starts on Feb. 11, face the same problem as Nacional.

Penarol are in Group 8 with Argentina's Arsenal, holders of the Copa Sudamericana, the region's second club competition, Deportivo Anzoategui of Venezuela and Mexicans Santos Laguna.

Former champions taking part in the tournament are holders Atletico Mineiro, Flamengo, Gremio and Cruzeiro, all of Brazil, Argentina's Velez Sarsfield and Colombia's Atletico Nacional.

The competition will be interrupted after the quarter-finals in mid-May for the World Cup finals in Brazil. It will resume with the semi-finals in the second half of July and final in August. (Writing by Rex Gowar; editing by Justin Palmer)

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