Who to look out for in this season’s Copa Libertadores
Charlie Dear | 31 May 2018
The Copa Libertadores group stages have come to a close and we now know the last-16 teams entering the knock-out rounds later this summer.
The draw takes place on June 4th and the Coral News Team cast our eye over the potential favourites and challengers for this year’s competition.
The current Libertadores holders are the young and exciting Gremio team. The Brazilian side led by manager Renato Portaluppi have hit a purple patch since 2016 winning four trophies including last year’s tournament.
The side have the likes of 2017’s player of the tournament Luan and stalwart goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe in their ranks.
Gremio won this campaign’s state-league title in Brazil. And were able to hang on to the much sought-after Luan and striker Everton.
Midfielder Arthur is to be a Gremio player until at least December when he’s expected to move to Barcelona.
They remain unbeaten and picked up 14 points from a possible 18 in the group stages.
They made a similar start last year thanks to their mean defence – only conceding one goal in the knock-out rounds that would win them the title.
Palmeiras boast the last-16’s top-scorer in Miguel Borja. The Colombian has netted 6 goals in 6 games and will be a big threat in the knock-out rounds.
They come off the back of the best record in the group-stage, winning five and drawing one match.
Their attacking football has seen them win all five by two clear goals, scoring three goals in half of their group games.
The club boast ex-Dynamo Kiev man Dudu as well as Felipe Melo. The former Galatasaray ace returned to Brazil last year.
Despite appearing one of the real favourites to beat Gremio to the cup this year, the Sao Paulo -based club haven’t won the Libertadores since 1999.
Even when they had Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus in their ranks, they couldn’t make it past the group stage.
Palmeiras last made the final in 2000. If they’re to reach another then one-time Barcelona target Lucas Lima and Borja will have to keep firing.
Former Copa Libertadores winners Corinthians have come on strong once more this campaign. The class of 2012 included Leandro Castan, Renato Augusto, Paulinho and a young Marquinhos.
This year’s squad will have a lot to do to replicate their success but do have the classy Jadson in their ranks.
The 34-year-old is enjoying a renaissance in his second spell at the club. The attacking midfielder who was once on the cusp of a move to Arsenal has notched five goals already.
They also have freshly capped Brazil full back Fagner in their squad.
The 28-year-old was called up for the World Cup in Russia following Dani Alves’ injury.
However, Coringão will want to keep hold of promising defender Pedro Henrique. The 22-year-old is currently the subject of interest from Benfica.
Cruzeiro finished top of Group E and have on-loan Real Madrid man Lucas Silva and former Brazil forward Fred in their ranks.
The two time Libertadores winners have a squad capable of threatening the favourites. Left back Egidio leads the way with six assists in the competition.
However, it’s the team who finished second in the group that may be worth watching.
Racing Club have no real history in the competition since winning it in the late sixties.
However, they now have two exciting forwards who are driving them on. Ricardo Centurion has excelled at left-wing this campaign notching three assists.
But it’s their number 10 Lautaro Martinez who has just signed an agreement with Inter Milan.
One major sticking point will be if Racing can convince the Italian side to delay the transfer until after the tournament. If they can, then the Argentine side could surprise a few.
An honourable mention must be made to River Plate’s goalkeeper Franco Armani, who leads the way with four clean sheets.
The 31-year-old will surely have designs of adding a couple more shut-outs to his current record.
Boca’s Cristian Pavon is also one to watch for the rest of the tournament.
Named in Argentina’s World Cup squad, the 22-year-old is bang in form right now and has top European clubs sniffing around.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing