Brazilian Rush for Copa Libertadores

The Brazilian football calendar began at the end of January and now the well awaited continental competitions are starting. In this year's Copa Libertadores, not less than eight Brazilian clubs will participate and try to bring the most important title in South America's club football, back to the Samba country.

 

The  Libertadores began on January 23, with the first of three preliminary stages. The final preliminary phase endeda month later, with Atletico Tucuman from Argentina, The Strongest from Bolivia and Paranaense and Botafogo from Brazil, qualifying the group stage.

This year, the Cup will last the whole year and 25% of the teams in the group stage will be Brazilian. It is practically a must for these teams to try to reach as far as possible and win the cup, which has not been won by a Brazilian club since 2013.

The teams have strengthened and most of them have done it very well. Thus, the clubs have formed good squads for the competition, and will aspire to win every game in the group phase.

Here is a full guide for the Brazilian teams that will participate in the 2017 Copa Libertadores. General info, expectations, chances and main figures, are all inside.

Botafogo

Number of participations in Libertadores: 5

Group opponents: Estudiantes, Barcelona de Guayaquil and Atletico Nacional.

Position expected in the group: Second

Probable starting 11: Gatito Fernandez; Jonas, Marcelo , Carli, Victor Luís ; Bruno Silva, Airton, Montillo, Camilo, Pimpão; Roger.

Stadium: Nilton Santos, Rio de Janeiro

Nickname: O Glorioso

Botafogo is a team without much tradition in Libertadores, being only his fifth participation in history. In 1963, with Garrincha as the main figure, O Glorioso reached the semifinal and have lost to Pelé’ Santos.

On their way to the group stage Botafogo struggled and passed Universidad de Chile, and eliminated Olimpia from Paraguay on peanlty shootouts. New arrival Goalkeeper Gatito Fernandez had a marvelous night, saving three penalties.

Botafogo’ squad hasn’t changed much from last season. Couple of players has left, few have joined, but all in all - the good chemistry and team spirit that were identified the team last term have stayed.

The fans expect a good campaign but understand that there are better squads in the competition, and that the qualification for the group stage itself is already considered an achievement.

In a group with Estudiantes, Nacional and Barcelona, Botafogo will probably to fight for the second place with the Argentinians and Ecuadorians, as Nacional are the favorite to finish firsts.

Santos

Number of participations in Libertadores: 13

Group opponents: Sporting Cristal, The Strongest & Independiente Santa Fé

Position expected in the group: First

Probable starting 11: Vanderlei; Zeca, Luiz Felipe, Cleber, Victor Ferraz; Renato, Thiago Maia, Lucas Lima; Copete, Ricardo Oliveira, Vitor Bueno.

Stadium: Vila Belmiro, Santos

Nickname: Peixe

As the Brazilian club with the most Libertadores titles along with São Paulo, Santos is back to the competition after five years, as they did not participate in since 2012, when it was eliminated in the semi-final by the arch-rival Corinthians.

The club strengthened well for the 2017 season, with the arrivals of Cleber from Hamburg and Vladimir Hernandez from Junior Barranquilla.

Meanwhile, the team haven’t lose any important players and the only position that the club has a certain lack at are in the back - the starters are good, but there are no good subs.

The fans have very high expectations for the Libertadores, and they are craving for a fourth title. With Lucas Lima, Renato and Ricardo Oliveira as the leading figures, and the east group, it’s not a bad option at all.

Atlético Paranaense

Number of participations in Libertadores: 5

Group opponents:  Flamengo, San Lorenzo and Universidad Catolica.

Position expected in the group: Third

Probable starting 11: Weverton; Sidcley, Thiago Heleno, Paulo André, Jonathan; Otavio, Lucho Gonzalez, Felipe Gedoz, Nikão, Pablo; Eduardo da Silva.

Stadium: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba

Nickname: Furacão

Despite the lack of tradition and experience in the Libertadores, Atletico Paranaense has been setting up a strong team for the competition. However, the draw went against them, as they are part of the ‘Death Group’.

On the second preliminary round they defeated Millionarios from Colombia and on the last round, they diminished Paraguayan Deportivo Capiatá, with Argentinean Lucho Gonzalez scoring the decisive goal.

The club has signed few experienced players like Carlos Alberto, Grafite and Eduardo da Silva, but is still missing a good left back, as Sidcley is not in the level for the Libertadores.

It will be difficult for the club to qualify for the next stage, but the third position won’t be couned as a failure as they would get a chance to play Copa Sudamericana.

 

 

Logo CR_Flamengo.png

Flamengo

Number of participations in Libertadores: 13

Group opponents: Atlético Paranaense, San Lorenzo and Universidad Catolica.

Position expected in the group: First

Probable starting 11: Alex Muralha; Pará, Rafael Vaz, r´ver, Trauco; Rômulo, Willian Arão, Diego, Everton, Mancuello; Guerrero.

Stadium: Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro

Nickname: Mengão

Since 2014 Flamengo haven’t participated in the Libertadores. Now the club is eager to make an impact and to give a reminder who’s the most popular club in continent.

Flamengo has made mega signings in the last transfer window. Dario Conca, Renê, Romulo and Orlando Berrio have joined to Diego and Paolo Guerrero, who are already motivated to fix the shame of last season: being eliminated from the Sudamericana by Palestino from Chile.

The powerful team from Rio de Janeiro has almost no weaknesses and the fans expect that this year, the title will be Cariocqueaño.

 

The duo that makes Flamengo's fans dream big again. Guerrero and Diego (Gilvan de Souza, Flamengo©)

The duo that makes Flamengo's fans dream big again. Guerrero and Diego (Gilvan de Souza, Flamengo©)

Palmeiras.png

Palmeiras

Number of participations in Libertadores: 17

Group opponents:  Atletico Tucuman, Jorge Wilstermann and Peñarol.

Position expected in the group: First

Probable starting eleven: Fernando Prass; Jean, Mina, Vitor Hugo, Zé Roberto; Felipe Melo, Tchê Tchê, Dudu, Michel Bastos, Keno; Borja.

Stadium: Allianz Parque, São Paulo

Nickname: Verdão

The second Brazilian club with most appreances in the Libertadores and current Brazilian champions arrives the competition in a strong form.

After winning the Brasilerao after 22 years, Palmeiras invested high for the continental title, hiring 10 new players, mixing experience with youth. Alejandro Guerra, Michel Bastos, Felipe Melo and almighty Colombian Miguel Borja, who came to replace Gabriel Jesus.

These signings join a team with players like Zé Roberto, Dudu and Yerry Mina, thus forming, perhaps, the best squad of America.

Unfortunately, the club lost the coach Cuca, who left because of personal problems and hired the inexperienced Eduardo Baptista, who will stand to a big test with this mega side.

Like many teams Palmeiras need a strong left back, as veteran Zé Roberto is already 42 years old and won’t play all the matches.

 

The best striker in South America wants a back-to-back with his new Brazilian club. Palmeiras' Borja (ESPN©)

The best striker in South America wants a back-to-back with his new Brazilian club. Palmeiras' Borja (ESPN©)

Clube_Atlético_Mineiro_crest.svg.png

Atlético Mineiro

Number of participations in Libertadores: 9

Group opponents:  Godoy Cruz, Libertad and Sport Boys.

Position expected in the group: First

Probable starting 11: Victor; Marcos Rocha, Leonardo Silva, Gabriel, Fabio Santos; Elias, Rafael Carioca, Otero, Robinho, Maicosuel; Fred

Stadium: Independência, Belo Horizonte

Nickname: Galo

After a major investment in 2016 but an overall disappointment, Atlético Mineiro comes strong for Libertadores, dreaming on second title in the competition.

This year, the club did not invest like last year, but made some good signings. Felipe Santana, defensive midfielders Elias and Adilson and left-back Danilo Barcelos were the only signings.

The team lost Leandro Donizete, Lucas Pratto and Jesus Datolo, all very experienced players, but these losses will not be felt, because the club has a large squad and made the right punctual signings in the pre-season.

Robinho, Victor and Fred are a strong attacking force, who’ll have to adapt to the new coach's style of play, Roger, who’s counted as the best Brazilian coach today.

With the signing of a good manager, maybe the best in Brazil, the fans expect the second title of the competition. With an easy group, a great coach and a massive squad, fans expect nothing but going all the way.

Chapecoense

Number of participations in Libertadores: 1

Group opponents:  Lanús, Zulia and Nacional-URU.

Position expected in the group: Third

Probable starting 11: Artur Moraes; Reinaldo, Nathan, Douglas Grolli, Diego Renan; Andrei Girotto, Luiz Antônio, Niltinho, Dodô, Rossi; Wellington Paulista.

Stadium: Arena Condá, Chapecó.

Nickname: Chape

 

After the plane crash that made the whole word cry, Chapecoense is back from the tragedy straight to their first Copa Libertadores campaign.Chapecoense had to build a team from zero. Just Neném stayed from the squad of 2016 and Neto and Alan Ruschel, two of the survivors of the tragedy that doesn’t have conditions to play a game yet. With a whole new squad, the team has been rocking a lot and it's still going to take a while to get through. Despite all the sympathy, their first participation in the competition may not be successful as the hype around the club.

The club signed a total of 24 players and counted with the return of some players that were on loan. With these and the players that come from the U-20 team, Chapecoense has a squad with 33 players. The realistic goal for the club is to get the third place, which gives a place in Copa Sudamericana.

The team signed very good players, like Douglas Grolli, Artur Moraes, Nathan, Apodi, Tulio de Melo, Andrei Girotto and Rossi. The squad isn’t playing what they can and that’s normal, considering that all of them started to play together this year.

Vagner Mancini, the new coach, isn’t seemed to be qualified for the Libertadores. His team would need more reinforcements, especially in midfield oppositions, if he wants to qualify from the group stage.

The fans doesn’t have high expectations and understand that these forthcoming yearsare years of reconstruction and building the club. Any participation in tournament like this is a great gain for Chape.

From a horrible disaster, to zero, to competing the best sides of South America. Chapecoense (AFP©)

From a horrible disaster, to zero, to competing the best sides of South America. Chapecoense (AFP©)

Gremio

Number of participations in Libertadores: 17

Group opponents:  Deportes Iquique, Zamora and Guaraní-PAR.

Position expected in the group: First

Probable starting 11: Marcelo Grohe; Léo Moura, Geromel, Kanemann, Marcelo Oliveira;Jailson, Maicon, Ramiro; Bolanos, Barrios, Luan.

Stadium: Arena do Gremio, Porto Alegre

Nickname: Imortal Tricolor

In the end of 2016, Gremio won the Brazilian Cup, what secured their place inthe Libertadores. However, the team has not strengthened so well and may suffer from it.

While the fans aspire to win the cup, the team lost two important players as club Walace and midfielder Douglas, and looks very vulnerable at midfield.

Lucas Barrios was brought after a bad season in Palmeiras last year; Léo Moura joined and also Beto da Silva from PSV Eindhoven, but two strange signings of Bruno Cortez and Jael erupted question marks. The duo has a debatable technical level, and clearly not fitted to play at South America leading tournament. Besides them, the team also signed Gaston Fernandez, in order to replace the injured Douglas.

Overall, the squad is very lean and replacements are missing in most positions, but with the easy draw Gremio’s fans are always believe in their club, no matter the stage or the opponent.

A new chance for Barrios. Gremio (Lucas Uebel/Gremio©)

A new chance for Barrios. Gremio (Lucas Uebel/Gremio©)

The Brazilian clubs in this year’s Libertadores have strengthened well. Most of them are well-managed and with the absence of many good clubs from other countries, the road to the latest stages of the competition is easier. It is worth closely following these 8 clubs, each with its different narrative and arsenal. Don’t be surprised if one of them will actually win it.