The Libertadores, the biggest tournament in the Americas, had its groups defined and in this article we will analyze each of the groups, present the favorites and those clubs that may surprise.
Group A is formed by Flamengo (Brazil), Racing (Argentina), Aucas (Ecuador) and Ñublense (Chile).
Flamengo, current champion and holder of three titles, is the favorite to lead the group and win the tournament. Despite the unstable start to the year under the command of Vítor Pereira, the Rubro-Negro must compete for the highest places in the group with Racing, since Aucas and Ñublense are modest teams and participate in the Libertadores for the first time.
Racing, champion of Libertadores in 1967 is coached by former midfielder Fernando Gago, was the Argentine runner-up in 2022 and is ranked fourth in the current championship, with 14 points. In 2020, he eliminated the Argentine club, eliminated Flamengo, at the time commanded by Rogério Ceni, tying both matches 1-1 and winning on penalties, at Maracanã.
The newcomers, Aucas and Ñublense, obtained unprecedented results in their national championships in 2022. Aucas was Ecuadorian champion and Ñublense was Chilean runner-up.
Group B is made up of Nacional (Uruguay), Internacional (Brazil), Metropolitanos (Venezuela) and Independiente Medellín (Colombia).
It is a balanced group, as Nacional, Internacional and Independiente Medellín have a troubled start to the year, where they have not been meeting expectations.
Nacional was the champion of the Uruguayan Championship in 2022, however, it started the current championship in a timid way. Coach Ricardo Zielinski was fired and management turned to Alvaro Gutierrez, an old acquaintance. In his debut, he already won a 3-0 victory over River Plate (URU). Bolso is three-time champion of America.
Internacional was eliminated in the semifinals of the Gaúcho Championship for the modest Caxias, even so it is the favorite to take the first position in the group, due to the great 2022 that resulted in the runner-up in the national championship, in addition to maintaining the base of the team, continues with Mano Menezes in charge. Colorado is two-time champion of America.
Internacional and Nacional are historic rivals in the Libertadores, even disputing the final, in which the Uruguayans were crowned champions.
Independiente Medellín is only in 10th place in the Colombian Championship, and despite reaching the groups through El Nacional (Ecuador) and Magallanes (Chile), it does not have a good start to the season, suffering a lot from injuries to its main players.
Metropolitanos, founded in 2011, is the current champion of Venezuela and is on the outside in its first Libertadores dispute.
Group C is formed by Palmeiras (Brazil) Barcelona (Ecuador), Bolívar, (Bolivia), and Cerro Porteño, (Paraguay).
Although the group has teams with tradition and many participations in Libertadores, Palmeiras is the clear favorite to lead and fight for the title. The team commanded by Abel Ferreira has been establishing itself more and more as one of the main continental powers. The three-time champion Palmeiras (1999, 2020 and 2021) is in the final of the Paulista Championship for the fourth consecutive year, in addition to presenting a very solid and consistent football in 2023.
Barcelona de Guayaquil has interesting recent performances in Libertadores, reached the semifinals in 2021 and 2017, when they eliminated Palmeiras in the round of 16. The current Ecuadorian runner-up is led by Fabián Bustos, coach of Santos in 2022.
Bolívar, a club from Grupo City, has as its main weapon the altitude of 3,640 meters in La Paz, was the Apertura champion in 2022, and is currently in second place in the national championship. It features striker Gabriel Poveda, top scorer in Série B 2022 for Sampaio Corrêa, in addition to coach Antônio Carlos Zago, former commander of Red Bull Bragantino.
Cerro Porteño, the third club with the most appearances in the competition, is the Paraguayan runner-up in 2022 and eliminated Fortaleza in the previous stages. The team, which has in its squad well-known players from Brazil, such as goalkeeper Jean, formerly of São Paulo, Piris da Motta, formerly of Flamengo, Churín, formerly of Grêmio, and Sérgio Diaz, loaned by Real Madrid to Corinthians in 2018. In 2022, it faced Palmeiras in the round of 16 of Libertadores, but was thrashed, losing 8 x 0 on aggregate.
Group D is made up of River Plate (Argentina), Fluminense (Brazil) The Strongest (Bolivia) and Sporting Cristal (Peru).
Fluminense and River Plate should compete for the first spot, as both have had a fantastic start to the season.
River Plate leads the Argentine Championship, with 18 points in eight games. The team has midfielders Nacho Fernández and Nicolás de la Cruz as the main highlights under the command of former defender Demichelis in his first experience as coach of a professional team. The team is four-time champion, with the most recent title in 2018.
Fluminense has been enchanting with their performances in 2023, a team with an unmistakable attacking style, with a short start, a lot of movement and possession of the ball. Fernando Diniz tries to lead Tricolor to its first Libertadores title, with top scorer Cano in command of the attack.
The Strongest is the leader of the Bolivian Championship, with 16 points, is undefeated in the competition with five wins and a draw in the six matches played so far this season. In its Hernando Silles stadium, the altitude is 3,625 meters, which affects the breathability of the players and the speed of the ball due to less air resistance.
Sporting Cristal is in second place in the Peruvian Championship with 15 points, but with a game less than the leader Universitário, with the same points. He was already a Libertadores finalist in 1997, when he lost to Cruzeiro in the decision. It features well-known characters from Brazilian football, such as coach Tiago Nunes, champion of the 2018 Copa Sudamericana champion and the 2019 Brasilian Cup champion for Athletico Paranaense.
Group E is formed by Independiente Del Valle (Ecuador), Corinthians (Brazil), Argentinos Juniors (Argentina) and Liverpool (Uruguay).
In one of the most balanced groups of the competition, Independiente Del Valle, Corinthians, Argentinos Juniors fight for the first places, while Liverpool runs outside.
Independiente Del Valle has been piling up titles recently, it is the current champion of the Copa Sudamericana, winning the second championship (2019 and 2022), in 2016 it was a finalist of the Libertadores, when it lost to Atlético Nacional and currently, it is the champion of the Supercopa over Flamengo . This is an extremely close-knit team with a quick touch style of play, involving the opponents.
Corinthians, champion in 2012, is looking for the second championship, however the beginning of the season is not encouraging, as the team was eliminated by Ituano in the quarterfinals of the Paulista Championship. Despite the vice-championship in the Brasilian Cup and the good placement in the Brazilian Championship in 2022, Timão’s eyes for 2023 are suspicious, due to the departure of coach Vítor Pereira to Flamengo. Currently the club is commanded by Fernando Lázaro.
Argentinos Juniors, the club that formed Diego Armando Maradona and has the star as the top scorer, won the Libertadores only once, in 1985. The team is commanded by Gabriel Milito, brother of Diego Milito, champion of the Champions League.
Liverpool was runner-up in the Uruguayan Championship in 2022 and will compete in the Libertadores group stage for the first time in its history.
Group F is made up of Boca Juniors (Argentina), Colo-Colo (Chile), Monagas (Venezuela) and Deportivo Pereira (Colombia).
In the group with the weakest technical level, Boca Juniors, the current Argentine champion, should remain and guarantee the first position without difficulties. In the current edition, it is the club with the most Libertadores titles (6).
Colo-Colo will compete for first place with the Xeneizes and is the favorite to be in second place. Despite the Chilean Championship title in 2022, the team appears only in eighth place in 2023. It was the first and only Chilean team to win the Copa Libertadores de América, in 1991.
Monagas is second in the Venezuelan Championship, trying to surprise, but is the weakest team in the group.
Deportivo Pereira had 72 participations in the first division, counting the semiannual tournaments, Lobo was the second team that had played the most times in the elite in Colombia without taking the cup, however it was champion of the Torneo Finalización of the Colombian Championship, beating Independiente Medellín in the Final.
Group G is made up of Athletico-PR (Brazil), Libertad (Paraguay), Alianza Lima (Peru) and Atlético-MG (Brazil).
In one more balanced group, “Atléticos” are the favorites to qualify.
Athletico-PR, current vice-champion of the Libertadores, tries to maintain the good recent campaigns in continental competitions. Coach Felipão, who took the team to the final in 2022, acts as director this season, and the coach is Paulo Turra, assistant to the world champion last year.
Libertad was champion of the Apertura, the Paraguayan Championship last year and leads in 2023. It has already reached the semifinals of the Libertadores in 1977 and 2006. Last year it was eliminated in the last minutes by Athletico-PR in the round of 16.
Alianza Lima, the current two-time Peruvian champion, also has the semifinals as their best campaign in 1976 and 1978. Despite many recent participations, the Peruvians have not won a match in the competition since 2012.
Atlético-MG, has an interesting start to the season, passed Millonarios in the previous phase and is in the final of the Mineiro Championship. The team led by Eduardo Coudet has Hulk and Paulinho as the main highlights of the year, a duo that already demonstrates a lot of harmony. It was champion in 2013 of Libertadores.
Group H is formed by Olimpia (Paraguay), Atlético Nacional (Colombia), Melgar (Peru) and Patronato (Argentina).
Olimpia and Atlético Nacional are the favorites of the group. Both teams met in the 1989 final, where ‘Verdolaga’ won the trophy on penalties.
Olimpia is three-time champion of Libertadores (1979, 1990 and 2002). The biggest champion of the Paraguayan Championship returned to put his hand in the cup, with the Clausura 2022 title. Recently, he was runner-up, when he lost to Atlético-MG in 2013.
Atlético Nacional, twice champion of Libertadores (1989 and 2016), became Colombian champion once again and is the club with the most national titles (17).
Melgar had a surprising campaign in last year’s Sudamericana, eliminating Internacional on penalties and advancing to the semifinals. It was third in the 2022 Peruvian Championship, however it is in the penultimate position of the current season.
Patronato, after winning the last edition of the Argentine Cup, has its first title and will play for the Libertadores for the first time in history. The club currently plays in the Second Division of Argentine football.
What are your expectations? Is your team a candidate for the title or can you surprise?
Written by Henry Miller.