In the last 5-10 years, two things stand out with regards to how the Copa Libertadores has played out as a continental cup competition. The first is that unlike the UEFA Champions League in which you can pretty much pencil in and accurately guess which 10-12 of the teams will qualify to the Round of 16 of the competition, the same cannot be said with the Copa Libertadores. The second is that Brazilian clubs have dominated and won the competition with Atlético Mineiro winning the 2013 edition.
As we are on the eve of the start of the 2014 edition of the Copa Libertadores, the first set of observations one can make is there are a number of recognizable named teams unsure of how well they will play during this year’s edition of the competition. If you had to pick one, you are safe in assuming that Brazilian clubs are the favorites. Looking at the eight groups, the one group which has the clear tag of being the group of death is Group 6.
Group 6 is made up of 2013 semifinalists Newell’s Old Boys, two-time champions Gremio of Brazil, 1989 champion Atlético Nacional of Colombia and three-time champion Nacional of Uruguay. Several reasons make this group to be tagged as the group of death, and the first one is the pedigree of the clubs. Each of the four teams on paper can advance out of the group stage and make it into the Round of 16 or beyond in this year’s competition.
With the likes Newell’s and Gremio making a legitimate claim to being favorites to win the competition, they are not alone in deserving or being tagged as favorites. In Group 1, Argentine club Velez Sarsfield are a club that in recent time has had good runs in the competition and always promises to do well. In Group 2, Argentine first division Torneo Inicial 2013 champions San Lorenzo can be said to be favorites to win and are now coached by Edgardo Bauza who coached a team to Copa Libertadores glory.
Aside from those two Argentine clubs, other teams that can be seen as favorites are Lanus in Group 3, defending champions Atlético Mineiro, Cruzeiro and Universisdad de Chile in Group 5 and Flamengo in Group 7. Essentially, aside from Universidad de Chile, it is nothing but Argentine and Brazilian clubs we can call as favorites to lift the trophy on Aug. 14.
Once again Mexican clubs will be making an appearance in the Copa Libertaodres, and while Monarcas Morelia were eliminated by Independiente Santa Fe in the qualifier, the two clubs representing Mexico will make strong arguments to have a good run in this year’s edition of the competition. 2013 Liga MX Apertura champions Leon are in Group 7. Though the start to the Clausura season has not gone well, they have made it a point of stressing they want to do well in the Copa Libertadores, and things set up for them to advance to at least the Round of 16.
The other Mexican club participating is Santos Laguna and they find themselves in Group 8. While it can be a tricky group with the likes of Peñarol of Uruguay and Arsenal de Sarandi of Argentina, things also set up for them to have a long run in the competition. Many of the questions we have now will certainly be answered along the way, but as the 2014 edition of the Copa Libertadores gets set to start, for now the safest bet might be to assume that a Brazilian club will win the competition.