The annual club battle between Brazil and Argentina is heating up once again with the Copa Libertadores moving to the knockout stage this week.
Since changing the format in 2017 – making it a year-long event rather than cramming it into the first few months – the two big nations have dominated, and in 2022 they provide all but four of the 16 teams that will be reduced to eight. over the next two weeks.
In the last few campaigns, Brazil has had the upper hand, providing the previous three winners (Flamingo, Palmeiras x2) and both finalists in the last two years (Palmeiras vs. Flamengo; Palmeiras vs. Santos). Brazilian clubs continue to grow, but for a number of reasons, Argentine clubs feel that they may be able to do better this time around.
The country did not lose a team during the group stage: all six teams qualified safely, the likes of Talleres and Cologne performed better than expected, and young Velez Sarsfield’s side managed to save themselves after a poor start. And there is a guarantee that Argentina will qualify for the semi-finals, where Talleres and Colon now meet, and the winner moves to the quarter-finals against the winner of the confrontation between Velez Sarsfield and River Plate.
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The 2019 champion, River is the favorite to participate in this Argentine mini-tournament, although they will soon say a wonderful farewell to their star, Julian Alvarez, Manchester City striker. True, River had a disappointing start to the Argentine domestic season, as did Velez, Talleres and Colon. Perhaps most important is the fact that the Argentine teams are in competition.
Over the past few years, Argentine clubs have paid the price at this point in the year. The Libertadores are resuming their knockout matches, and at the same point as the movement is getting more serious, the country is still coming back from vacation. With the end of the domestic season traditionally approaching the end of May, teams have not played for a month and have been active in the transfer market, which could lead to a team imbalance in the early stages. This is clearly a poor preparation for the crucial Libertadores match.
This year, as a result of hosting the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in November, there has been a reorganization. Argentina started their new league campaign earlier than usual and the parties were running until June, so they wouldn’t be rusty.
That should be a big help against Brazil and Argentina in this round. The magical confrontation between two giants, Boca Juniors and Corinthians – took place in a replay of the 2012 final and a third meeting this year after both won their home matches when they tied in the group stage.
The other confrontation between Brazil and Argentina will conclude the round next Thursday. In the first leg, Fortaleza will host Estudiantes in northeastern Brazil. Under great Argentine coach Juan Pablo Voevoda, Fortaleza is fully enjoying his debut in the Copa Libertadores and it would be great to see if they meet their game against Estudiantes who mix deft defensive game management with flashes of talent.
The six Brazilian teams managed to dodge each other in this round, although future confrontations seem inevitable as they are clearly favorites in the matches against the non-Argentine opponent. Two of them are facing batons from Paraguay. Champions of the past two years and leaders of the Brazilian First Division, Palmeiras are the favorites against Cerro Porteno; While Atletico Paranaense, emerging since the appointment of Luis Felipe Scolari, will return to bypass Libertad, whom they have already met in the group stage. It was a victory for both of them at the time, but Scolari has moved Atletico up the Serie A table in Brazil, and confidence is high.
The remaining fixtures feature clubs from Brazil against opponents from the north of the continent who find themselves in ambivalent situations. The 2019 winner, Flamengo face Colombia’s Tolima – a team that could struggle with a lot of football given that they’re also in the midst of a home leg of the Colombian championship, having lost 3-1 to Atletico Nacional. De Medellin in the first match. Win or lose in Sunday’s second leg, Tolima only had a few days to regroup before facing a Flamengo side desperate to salvage a disappointing year.
Meanwhile, Emelec from Ecuador has not been in business since the end of May. Their domestic season – in which they finished sixth – has been halted, and their resumption has been delayed by a wave of protests over rising prices for fuel, food and basic necessities across the country. The protests in the capital Quito have been stronger than in the coastal city of Guayaquil in Emilic, but the Brazilian league and cup champions Atletico Mineiro will wait for guarantees before traveling for the match, which is scheduled to start the knockout phase on Tuesday night.