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All you need to know about Copa Libertadores 2019

by Gabriele Ferraresi / LUZ
Late November 2018. The second leg of the finals of the Copa Libertadores 2019 between Boca Juniors and River Plate ends up on the headlines of European newspapers, usually not very focused on Central and South American football. The match however ends up on the headlines for the wrong reasons: not only clashes between fans, but also public order situations.
The Argentine and former icon of AC Fiorentina Gabriel Omar Batistuta tweeted: Otra oportunidad más perdida delante del mundo entero que nos observa, vergonzoso, lamentable. According to the former captain, that final was a missed opportunity in front of the world, lost in a bad way. A real pity because "la Copa" is a fascinating competition with a fascinating history, followed as much as, if not even more than, the UEFA Champions League.

The history of the Copa Libertadores

Originally established in 1960 as the Copa de Campeones de América, the Copa America initially was similar to the Champions' Cup, where only clubs that classified first in their national championship would qualify. Participation was later extended to second-placed teams and the Cup also changed its name, becoming the Copa Libertadores from América to honour the heroes of the South American independence.
La Copa would open up an even more exciting challenge as the winning team would play against the first placed club from the European Champions' Cup. Today things are slightly different and the Intercontinental Cup is now the FIFA Club World Cup, a worldwide competition based on the principle of selecting the best national teams to play against each other. While originally the teams would be from the CONMEBOL - South American Confederation of Football and UEFA only, now they can be from all over the world, as established by FIFA in 2000.

Who participates and how does the Copa Libertadores 2019 take place?

The 2019 edition of Copa Libertadores registered 47 teams from ten national federations: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. In order to skim the participating formations, three phases are initially planned in direct confrontation before a group stage. More than tropical, the Libertadores regulation is Byzantine: full of rules to determine the participating teams, rather far from those to which we are so accustomed to in Europe. It suffice to say that the mid-range teams of the South American federation participate in this very first phase of the tournament.

The fans cuddle their "obsesion", as the Copa Libertadores is called.

The big names will arrive later in the group stage of Copa Libertadores  2019, in which 32 teams participate, divided into eight groups of four teams each. The squadrons are there, along with the teams that emerged from the previous phase: fascinating challenges begin to fill stadiums.
From this stage, in fact, the first two teams in each group emerge, destined for the first knockout round planned on the 23rd, 24th and 25th July, the first leg, and on 30, 31 July and 1 August, the return leg. Already at this point, the clubs involved and all the different matches are becoming very interesting, also for the European public. Among the others, the Argentines of River Plate against the Brazilians of Cruzeiro or also the Boca Juniors against Athletico Paranaense have been very promising.
Six out of 16 Brazilian teams dominate the scoredraw in the round of 16 of this year's Copa Libertadores: Palmeiras, Cruzeiro, Internacional, Flamengo, Grêmio and Athletico Paranaense. Argentina is also doing well: four teams reach the second round: Boca Juniors, River Plate, San Lorenzo and Godoy Cruz. Three teams for Paraguay, which moves Cerro Porteño, Libertad, and Olimpia of Asunción forward. Two for Ecuador, LDU of Quito and Emelec, and only one for Uruguay, the Nacional of Montevideo.

After that, quarter-finals are scheduled for the 20th, 21st and 22nd of August and 27th, 28th and 29th of the same month, while the semifinals offer a little more breathing space, with the two first leg matches scheduled on the 1st and 2nd of October, with returns on the 22nd and 23rd of October.

The favoured teams for the final victory of the Copa Libertadores 2019

Three Brazilian teams should go ahead in the tournament and maybe reach at least the semifinals. Palmeiras will want to seek revenge on Boca Juniors, as well as the Grêmio of Porto Alegre, a semifinalist in 2018 eliminated by River Plate. Fifth team that needs to be watched is Cruzeiro, who will face the River Plate in the round of 16 for a long-awaited match.

The champions to follow at the Copa Libertadores 2019

The scorer list for now sees at the top the twenty-six-year-old Argentine Adrián Emmanuel Martínez from Libertad and Marco Ruben, playing for Athletico Paranaense, both with six goals each. To score again, however, it is necessary to proceed in the tournament. In the round of 16, both Libertad and Athletico Paranaense have to face arduous challenges: the first against Grêmio, the latter against Boca Junior.
From a transfer market point of view, those to watch are surely the Brazilian Dudu of Palmeiras, as well as twenty-three years old Christian Pavón of Boca Juniors. Other names to follow? The River Plate midfielder Exequiel Palacios, soon to move to either Bundesliga or Premier League. Finally, the Copa Libertadores is also a great opportunity to see back on the field many veteran South American acquaintances of the Italian Serie A that after a successful career in Europe, chose to play closer to their homeland.

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